Tuesday, July 30, 2013

IS EXERCISE THE REAL “FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH”? RESEARCH SAYS YES!


When you compare folks who participate in regularly scheduled physical activities, with their classmates who don’t exercise at all or very little, you usually can quickly see there is a very distinct difference between the two groups.  The difference can be as subtle as simply how well the active folks move and complete everyday tasks, or as dramatic as an actual perception that they appear to be 10-20 years younger (posture, skin and muscle tone, balance, walking stride, brighter eyes, etc) than their less active peers.

On top of those very positive benefits, researchers are now convinced that getting into motion (no matter your age) carries many more very real life-enhancing and extending benefits.  It has now been determined that exercise not only helps lower high blood pressure, but also reduces high cholesterol levels.  Moving more also reduces your risk of getting (and even reversing type-2) diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancer. 

There’s also great news that rather than making things worse, when done properly, exercise will reduce and sometime eliminate aches and pains attributed to arthritis and other joint issues. Folks who are active tend to sleep much better and process foods more easily. And for those concerned about other possible consequences of aging, the research is telling us that becoming more active may even prevent, postpone, or even possibly reverse the onset of symptoms related to Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease! 

When I talk about “exercise” what I really mean is getting into the cycle of simply moving more than you currently do, which will help you become stronger and allow you to move even more. This is the total opposite of what we see in so many cases today, where folks get into the negative cycle of moving less and less, spiraling into dependency on mobility assists like canes, walkers, and eventually wheel chairs. I’ve worked with folks over the years that were well into their senior years, burdened with all sorts of health and structural issues that were able to “reverse the clock” and regain much of the independence they thought they had lost forever.

Of course when most folks think about “exercise” they immediately get visions of having to throw heavy weights around, intimidating pieces of fitness (torture) equipment, running on endless treadmills until they’re ready to drop, and expect to experience so much soreness the next day they will be unable to move!

That’s not the kind of “exercise” that I recommend for most folks, especially those who have allowed themselves to really get out of shape and are just wanting to regain some of their “lost youth”.  What I am suggesting is getting more active than you currently are by starting simply and safely.  

Many folks like the idea of joining a fitness center with Certified Personal Trainers that are qualified  to analyze where the new exerciser is physically starting from, help them plan out activities to help reverse the individual issues that they face, and then teach them how to accomplish the activities with confidence,  effectively, and safely on their own. Some Personal Trainers specialize their focus on helping those who are new to fitness, and those coming to fitness with health, pain, balance, and structural issues.

If a fitness center is not currently in your budget or within your comfort zone, you may want to try a few things just to help get back into motion on your own: 

(1) A really great place to start is for every hour you sit, get up and spend 10 minutes moving around…dusting, watering plants, dancing (or if at work, make some phone calls or filing while standing, or visit a co-worker rather than text or email them). 

(2) To help create daily goals for moving more, purchase an inexpensive “pedometer” which is a little device you clip on your waistband that counts your steps during the day, working your way up over time to around 10,000 steps per day (sedentary folks will average walking about 2,000 steps a day, though honestly many folks nowadays get nowhere near that many). (You can pick up a pedometer at most sporting good stores or chain department store for $10-$20). It’s a good way to challenge yourself to get a little more active each day. 

(3) Then for regaining some lost strength and endurance, work on the movements and activities you are beginning to find challenging such as getting out of chairs or cars, climbing stairs, carrying items such as groceries. Most folks are really surprised at how quickly they regain those “lost” abilities!

Honestly, in the 8 years I’ve been doing personal training I have yet to meet anyone who, with a moderate amount of self-commitment, was not able to increase their strength, reduce health issues and pain, and get more enjoyment out of their lives no matter their physical age!

Remember to always check with your Doctor before beginning or restarting any fitness type activities!
Bobby Morrow is a certified personal trainer with over 8 years in the fitness field and his main focus is on those new to fitness, and those with health issues and physical challenges.

This article was printed in The Dispatch newspaper, Lexington, North Carolina

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Joint pain…”Old Age” or simply Old Habits?


Joint pain…”Old Age” or simply Old Habits?
By Bobby Morrow
I've been doing Personal Training professionally for 8 years now, and learned early on that nearly everyone, no matter their chronological "age", brings some sort of physical (either "health" or "structural") challenge with them to fitness.  Even if they came in initially to "lose some weight", "gain more energy", "feel better", "reduce stress" etc, in many cases it’s those “oh, by the way” physical challenges that need to be addressed first!  For example, if you have “knee, hip, or back issues” and your primary goal is to drop some body fat, simply sticking you on the treadmill and cranking up the speed is not a smart way to start!!
Once I discover that a new client has painful joint issues, I dig a little deeper to see if they had any trauma to those areas like broken bones, sprains, tears, etc from accidents or falls. Sometimes they will report that their Doctor has told them they have knee ligament tears, or bulging discs, or arthritis which is also good for me to know. However, I’m discovering that in many cases even those issues may just be symptoms of something else that’s going on elsewhere in the body.
While educating myself over the years on how to help these folks reach “their goals” it quickly became clear that most of the painful joint issues we begin experiencing shortly after leaving our teens are not due to “old age”, but rather can be attributed to “old habits” or what I call “lifestyle-created posture preferences”.  If you’ve ever noticed a teenager while they’re texting (shoulders and back hunched over, head dropped forward and down), then watch their posture when they stop texting and walk away you’ll quickly realize that it’s not “old age” that’s causing many of our joint issues!
 In my opinion, as well as a high number of other professionals in the field, our bodies tend to fold themselves into the patterns that they find themselves in most of the time during our day (no matter the persons age), creating these “preferences”.  In other words, if you spend most of your day sitting at your desk (computer, car seat, recliner, etc) your body tends to form a preference for that “sitting position”…knees bent, hips flexed, chest dropped, shoulders and upper back rounded, arms rotated inward…by shortening (and tightening) some muscles, ligaments, and other tissues while at the same time lengthening (and weakening) others, making it harder and harder over time to straighten into a full upright posture.
What is happening is that because of our repeated daily habits, our posture is getting out of whack (most efficient alignment) placing undue stresses across those joint areas creating irritation, inflammation, soreness, and even pain when we finally do try to use them more than usual. Left unaddressed these issues could eventually lead to total deterioration of the joint requiring surgery or even replacement.
So what can we do? Well, working with a professional “Corrective Exercise Specialist” to help determine which muscles are weak and need to be strengthened, and which are short and tight that need to be released as well as teach you effective exercises to allow your body to make these corrections more permanent, can be very helpful.  Most CES’s are reasonably priced, require only a few sessions, and are definitely cheaper and less painful than surgery!
However, there are a few things you can begin doing right away that may help get you back on track over time (remember; if you spend 8-12 hours a day in a sitting position don’t expect to counteract that with just a few minutes  of exercises a day, especially if you go right back into those positions the next day!): 
(1) It seems like common sense but try to “sit less”! Even if your job “requires” you to be at a computer all day doesn’t mean you have to sit the whole time. Stand up for 10 minutes every hour. Stand while you are on the phone or sorting papers, files, etc. And as a bonus you will burn more calories while standing than while seated.
(2) Walk over to see a co-worker, rather than simply emailing, texting, or calling them (again, burns a few more calories too).
(3) During lunch or other breaks walk around a little and really loosen up those muscles.
(4) While standing (or seated) do some “rearward arm circles “ (with arms straight out to the sides at shoulder height, circle your arms rearward pulling with your back and shoulder muscles, then relaxing as you circle forward…do 10-12 circles) these are great for releasing those tight shoulder and neck stresses too.
(5) Rather than sitting in the recliner while watching your favorite shows, stretch out on the floor for a while, and during commercials actually “stretch” out your muscles (reaching over your head while pushing your heels away).
Even if you are not able to totally reverse all damage through exercise and better posture, there’s a very good chance you can reduce or eliminate the related pain, prevent further damage, and keep yourself out of surgery for many years to come.
Bobby Morrow is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer & Corrective Exercise Specialist

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Real “Healthcare Reform” Begins with YOU!



There’s been a lot of talk in the media lately about “HealthCare Reform”. And no matter how well intentioned the proponents may be, I believe their attention is still focused on the wrong end of the problem, the “symptoms”. 
The current health care system is overloaded in its attempts to treat the tidal wave of seemingly unrelated “diseases” (I believe “symptoms”) including but not limited to Heart Disease, High Cholesterol, High Blood Pressure, Heart Attacks, Strokes, Kidney and Liver Damage, Diabetes, many Cancers, Sleep Disorders, Depression, Arthritis, Artery Disease, Allergies, and of course Obesity. These are also the “diseases” that contribute most to Doctor (and specialists) visits, non-accident related trips to the emergency room, hospital stays, prescription (symptom treatment) expenses, and the overall high cost of health care recently estimated at $190,000,000,000 annually!
The “blame” for these diseases is now being placed primarily on the scary fact that currently 3 out of every 4 (over 70%) adult Americans are now either overweight or obese! And even though those numbers are accurate, I believe that in most cases the diseases listed above, even Obesity, are actually “symptoms”, created by our current lifestyle choices, and the natural outcome of becoming less and less active while making more and more unhealthy food (“fuel”) choices.
It seems that for most of us things were going along pretty well until one day we caught a glimpse of our reflection in a store window, ran out of holes in our belt, stepped on the Doctors’ scales, or had our Doctor tell us if we don’t do something different, and soon, things aren’t looking very good for a long and disease free life for us. 
What happened? How did we get in such bad shape and not even notice?
For most it happened subtly as we gained easier access to “labor-saving” devices and were introduced to “entertainment” allowing us to become more “observers” than active participants in life. On top of becoming less and less active, we were introduced to easier and faster access to higher calorie (lower quality) “foods” at cheaper prices. That combination results in a pretty simple to understand equation: fewer calories out, plus more calories in, equals more calories stored. Since the body never wastes calories (“fuel”), every calorie without a current purpose is converted to fat and stored in our very non-favorite storage tank places (hips, thighs, and bellies). And the outcome of that simple equation has now surpassed smoking as the leading cause of death in the United States!
Okay, so that’s the “bad news”.  Is there any Good News? Absolutely! The Good News is that we don’t have to wait for the government or some other group of health care “experts” to come to our rescue! The prevention, or a very real reduction, of our risks of getting any or all of those diseases listed above, as well as the ability to undo many of the “diseases” that you may already have, is totally within our very own control, starting right now!
Becoming healthier and fitter is not however about an all out attack on our bodies, as if they were our enemy! Like it or not our bodies have dutifully done what we “taught” them to do (though usually not consciously), and will also do what we teach them to do for us now to become healthier, stronger, more youthful, and full of life!
Start by becoming more active than you currently are, but go easy on yourself and start where you are…if you haven’t exercised in years (or ever) don’t expect yourself to become a body-builder, marathon runner, magazine cover model, or drop 50 pounds overnight…“baby-steps” are still steps!
Find an exercise or walking buddy, get a workout video, buy fitness magazines, take advantage of the virtually limitless resources on the internet by “googling” exercise, fitness, and healthy food choices.
As for healthier eating, most of us already have a pretty good idea of the foods we need to avoid or totally cut out, including sweets, “white foods”(sugar, white breads, rice, pasta, etc), fried foods, over processed foods, foods high in fat, etc. If you tend to “crave” a food, then that’s probably something you can live (longer) without, so start there!
Most folks find that seeking the advice of Health and Fitness Professionals (Certified Personal Trainers, Dieticians, your Physician, etc), especially when dealing with any current health and structural challenges, is very helpful. Also, if it’s in your budget, making a (financial) commitment to join a fitness facility gives many individuals additional incentive to help them stick with it longer, thereby increasing the likelihood they will reach their health and fitness goals.
The main thing is to get started, now, where you are, taking control of your life choices… don’t wait for the “government” or others to come rescue you…it’s your life, your gift, to enjoy and share!
Disclaimer: Always check with your Doctor before beginning or restarting any health and fitness program.

Bobby Morrow is a Certified Personal Trainer (with over 7 years experience), Corrective Exercise Specialist, and National Spokesman for the American Council on Exercise. Bobby works out of The Forum Fitness Center in Lexington, NC and focuses on helping folks that are new to fitness, and those coming to fitness with health and/or structural issues.  Bobby can be contacted at The Forum, or via email at bmorrow@lexcominc.net.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

TIPS FOR KEEPING THOSE NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

Bobby Morrow, ACE cPt, CES

1.      1Be realistic about your goals(if you want to lose 20-50 pounds, give yourself enough time to accomplish that…if you are wanting to run a marathon, give yourself enough time to build up your endurance, etc)…define them, make them “measurable”…how many pounds, how much body fat, how many inches lost or gained, dress or pant size, how much increase in speed or strength, endurance, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, decrease in meds required, increase of energy throughout the day, etc, etc….and add in what reaching those goals really means to you. Write your goals down…share them with folks that you know will support you in your process.

2.     2.   If losing weight is one of your goals…don’t be a slave to the scales! In fact, don’t even look at those numbers the first couple of weeks, and then no more than once a week until you reach your goals…THEN, once your goals are reached, check them EVERY DAY. That way you can get things back under control before they get out of hand again.  (It’s MUCH easier to drop 5 pounds than 10-15 or 20)  Also, look for other sign posts along the way  that will probably show up even before the scales start moving…things like energy levels going (way) up, sleeping better, breathing easier, fewer “aches and pains”, making healthier food choices more easily, and realize that your clothes are starting to fit a little more loosely, etc.  Probably someone you haven’t seen in a while will remark on your changes….

3.       3. Don’t OVER commitbe realistic here also.  Commit first to what you KNOW you can confidently (and consistently) “show up” for week after week…then add in more where and when you can.  Remember, you and your goals are important…so treat your fitness schedule with the same degree of importance as you would schedule a Doctor’s appointment, for example, (and truth is…you probably will be scheduling LESS of those!)  Sure life is gonna happen… (Illness of self or others, scheduling conflicts, vacations, etc…) just don’t let that be an excuse for giving up.

4.     4.  Don’t expect all the changes you are seeking to happen  in the first few weeks…realize that this process will probably take time…and and that’s okay…it’s more about lifestyle changes that you can live with for the long haul, rather than a quick-fix or patch. Then add to that whenever you can, as you feel led to...and enjoy the benefits of “compound interest”!

5.   5.    Be sure to include ALL areas of Health and FitnessCardiovascular Health, Muscular Strength and Endurance (don't forget to include Posture Evaluation and Corrective Exercise), and Healthy Nutrition…leaving any one out could seriously limit your success in reaching your overall goals, no matter how committed and consistent you are in the other areas.

6.     6. Finding activities that are enjoyable, fun, and exciting  are great…but realize that getting Healthy and Fit is NOT ALWAYS going to be a blast…sometimes you just have to show up and push through it(as NIKE says…”just do it”).

7.     7.  Making the financial commitment to join a gym or fitness facility for many is a good way to help you to following through on “showing up” to reach your Health and Fitness goals…but be sure to remember that it’s really about a lifestyle change, and not just a few days the week of working out…attempt to seek out and incorporate small healthier choices in as many areas of your life as you can, including ways to simply “move more” throughout your day.

8.      8. Allow yourself to be important enough to have this time for yourself…knowing that the healthier you are, the more you will have to share with others. And along those same lines...be gentle with yourself...sometimes you won't feel as committed as you do at other times...just keep telling yourself that you deserve and are worth the goals you are reaching!

9.      9. If you are new to fitness or have been away for some time…get some help in the beginning (in my 7 years as a Personal Trainer, I've yet to meet anyone who has been blessed with a "fitness gene").  Investing in a few hours with a Personal Trainer can help get you started on the right track, prevent possible injuries, give you the confidence to show up at the gym knowing what you need to be doing and HOW to do it…and can also help you avoid wasting weeks of struggling with unfamiliar equipment, confusing unrealistic information, and the frustration that can come from working really hard yet not actually seeing the results you want. Remember though, if you hire a trainer…YOU will still have to show up, and do the “work” required to reach your goals, a Trainer can’t do that FOR you! (find a trainer at ACEcertified@ACEfitness.org)

10. 10Find a workout buddy…so you can support, encourage, motivate, and commit to each others' success.  Many fitness centers offer a “buddy-board” (if they don't...ask if they could start one) where you can find a match for your fitness level, interests, and time schedule (like a “share-the-ride “board).
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11. 11.  Realize that no matter your age, fitness starting point, or other perceived challenges… someone with those very same issues, challenges, and starting point(s) has already reached those very same goals you are seeking…

12.   visit ACEFitness.org for more tips, ideas, workout videos and articles to help you reach your goals
Bobby Morrow, ACE cPt, CES
National Spokesman for the American Council on Exercise

Saturday, July 16, 2011

OKAY...TIME TO GET REAL!

Hi, and here's hoping your Summer is going great!  'Don't know about you, but I'm like'n the touch of "cooler" weather today here in NC!
My certifying agency (The American Council on Exercise) came out with an article this month reconfirming the latest data on recommended amounts of time being active
(exercising/moderate movement)per week per desired results. It also pointed out a few more interestingstatistics...that "33% of Americans never exercise, and 55% never engage in
vigorous activity (CDC2010).  I think it is striking that these numbers very nearly mirror the statistics that show 25-30% of Americans are obese, and another 50% are considered overweight!
Although any activity above and beyond what you are currently doing is a definite step in the right direction, it is recommended that 10-20 minutes moderately challenging (graded on a scale of "1-10", with "1" being "no challenge", and "10" being "all out"...working between a "4" and "6")activity(exercise) 5 or more days a week is the minimum recommended to begin seeing small improvements in general health
For greater improvements in Health (reducing risk for heart disease, lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar
balancing, greater energy, improved general functioning of the body, etc) a minimum of 30 minutes 5 days per week of moderately challenging activity is recommended.
And for those that are interested in significant body-fat/weight reduction (more than 10 pounds), 60 minutes of
(combined) moderate intensity activity at least 5 days per week is recommended. 
All of us in the "industry" tend to agree that just getting folks moving can be challenging in the beginning.
I liken it to trying to pushing a stalled car across a flat paved parking lot...it takes a lot of effort to get that car moving, but once you have it moving it becomes a bit less challenging to just "keep it moving".  And of course if we let the car slow down, it takes a little more effort to get it started again.  I realize that some are pushing VW's and others are pushing SUV's, but once you've gotten some momentum built up and (you begin to see, and feel 
those great changes that everyone talks about) working for you
it becomes a bit more rewarding to stay in motion.

And to throw in a small doses of reality...if you expect the process to be (or become) "easy" you are simply kidding yourself...
"if it's not challenging, you're not changing"! 
A little more "reality-check" information for those looking to reduce their body-fat% (weight) is
to come to terms with how many extra "calories" your body has stored up for you, so you can start making more realistic choices to take you where you'd rather be. (1) Science has determined that one pound of body-fat is created from a stored excess of 3,500 calories.  
(2) So, if you are, for example, 50 pounds heavier than you'd like to be...your body has stored up a whopping 175,000 excess calories (50X's3,500)!!
Those numbers can be downright scary (and disheartening) at first!  But the first step is to "get real" about
where you are, and also with about how long it's actually going to take to get to where you'd like to be!  Then, start educating yourself on all the ways you can "burn-off" those stored up calories,  by choosing activities that you can work in throughout your day (not just at the gym) that will give you the most "bang for your buck"! For example, doing 10 minutes (straight) of ab crunches will only burn about 50 calories (and will NOT burn those specific calories stored in the belly anyway), but choosing 10 minutes of moderately challenging time on the tread-mill will burn off over 100 calories (the eliptical...even more)!
Be kind to yourself...realize you didn't get where you are over night (and I've yet to find anyone that actually did it on purpose!), and getting back to where you'd like to be won't happen over night either...but let that be okay, it's really all about creating a healthier lifestyle (I know you've heard that before) and letting
your new lifestyle do a lot of the "work" for you!
I've included an additional "page" listing some common activities and the amounts of calories they burn...check 'em out!  If you'll start adding some into your life, you will begin to see a "cumulative" effect taking place that will begin taking you to your Health and Fitness Goals!
Best of Luck!!
Bobby M