Friday, 23 January 2015

Most Americans Have Access to 'Exercise Opportunities,' Study Finds

More than three-quarters of Americans live close to at least one park or recreational facility, giving many people opportunity to exercise, a new study finds.
But access to exercise sites varies regionally, the nationwide study found. "Not everyone had equal access to opportunities for exercise," said study researcher Anne Roubal, a project assistant at the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute in Madison.
"Southern regions did much worse than the rest of the country," Roubal said. "In the Northeast, most counties have very high access."
Access to exercise opportunity is considered crucial for Americans to get regular physical activity, and in the process lower their risk for premature death and chronic health conditions, the researchers said.
"If we provide people more access to those locations, it is going to increase the chances they will be active," Roubal said.
Currently, less than half of U.S. adults meet recommendations for moderate-to-vigorous physical activity: 150 minutes or more weekly of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise or a combination of the two, the study noted.
Roubal's team defined access to exercise opportunity as living close to a park, gym, recreational center, skating rink or pool, she said. If people lived a half-mile from a park or one mile from a recreational facility in urban areas, or three miles in rural areas, they were considered to have access to exercise opportunities.
Data on bike trails was not available, Roubal said.
For the study, published in the January issue of Preventing Chronic Disease, the investigators calculated the percentage of residents with access to exercise opportunities in nearly all U.S. counties.
The researchers used 2012 data from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The program ranks states on health outcomes and potential health based on measures such as diet and exercise. This is the first time access to exercise opportunities was included, Roubal said.
Seventy-seven percent of the U.S. population had access to some site for physical activity, the study found. However, "some counties have zero percent access," Roubal said. "There is room for improvement."
After the Northeast, opportunities to exercise were highest in the West, Midwest, Southwest and Southeast, in that order.
By state, access differed from 46 percent in Mississippi to 91 percent in Maryland, the study revealed.
The findings make sense to Susan Babey, a senior research scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, Center for Health Policy Research, who wasn't involved in the study.
Babey said she has done research in California on access to exercise opportunities for youth, and found that about 75 percent lived near a park -- defined as within a half-mile if it was an acre or more, a quarter-mile for smaller parks.
The recent recession has made it challenging to increase access to exercise opportunities, she said, noting some communities have talked of closing parks because of budget constraints. "Things are starting to get better," Babey said.
For those who don't live close to parks or other recreational facilities, Babey and Roubal offered some tips.
"In terms of being active, try to find someplace safe to just go for a walk," Babey said. Brief bouts of activity add up, such as parking far from a store or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, she suggested.
Roubal added, "Any activity is better than none. Even if it's walking up and down your stairs for 10 minutes." She also suggested meeting with neighbors and forming a walking group.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Is your personal trainer lying to you?

Personal trainers know what they're talking about, right? Well, not always.

For most people, having a personal trainer is the dream. That's why celebrities manage to look so good all the time, right? Well actually, maybe not. Apparently there are a few tips the experts love to dish out that might not be that on point. Want to know more? Well, here we go.
Whether you love them or loathe them, these are the key to getting a rounded butt and lean thighs. But there's a right way to do them, which includes not going past a 90 degree angle. Well, that's what they tell you anyway. This is supposed to protect your knees, but according to Chris Fox of CrossFit South Brooklyn it might do the opposite. He tells that 90 degrees is the moment when there is the most force on the knee joint, which could lead to problems. Instead he recommends going down lower, because that gets the hamstrings involved, which stabilises you and also makes your stronger.
Hands up: who's spent hours crunching in the hope of developing a six pack? Well according to Chris, you've been wasting your time. No amount of exercise is going to make your muscles shine through if you're eating badly, because there will be a layer of fat covering them. So the good news is you might actually already have perfect abs under there! But you'll need to reconsider what you shove into your mouth if you want to show them off.
Sorry, we're not saying there's no need to get sweaty at the gym. But if you're looking to drop the pounds, simply pounding the treadmill isn't going to be enough. Chris suggests diet, once again, is vital if you want to see a change in your body. Apart from anything, some types of cardio can cause the hormone that controls your metabolism to reduce, meaning fat is piled on quickly. So it's important to eat a balanced diet too - training isn't going to cut it if you're purging on sugar every night.
No pain, no gain... right? Wrong. While it's obviously good to push yourself, you have to know your limits too. Lifting super heavy weights could cause muscle strain and you'll feel light-headed if you do hardcore cardio when you're not used to it. An injury will set your gym routine back weeks too, so we recommend trying hard but listening to your body too.
Many think that pounding the treadmill at the gym is safer than hitting the pavement. It's long been claimed it's easier on the knees, but that's not true. Todd Schlifstein, DO, a clinical instructor at New York University Medical Center's Rusk Institute tells that it's the force of your body weight that might cause stress on your joints. Obviously that doesn't change, no matter where you're working out. Get the best out of your exercise by varying it, rather than sticking to running each time.
This type of exercise continues to have a moment, and for many it is the perfect low-impact way to workout. But it's not true that all back pain can be cured with it. Certainly it's great for tense muscles and can help strengthen your core, but Todd explains if you have something more serious - such as a disc problem - you might actually do more harm than good. Best to check with your doctor if you have any concerns.