Posts Tagged ‘Exercise and activity’

Parents, remember these numbers: 5210

July 29, 2012

Five-two-one-zero (5210) is a reminder of what our children need each day in order to be healthy. Here is the breakdown:

5    = Five or more servings of fruits and vegetables

2    = No more than two hours of recreational screen time (no screen time under 2 yrs old)

1    = At least one hour of physical activity

0    = Zero servings of sugary drinks (drink water and fat-free or 1% milk instead)

[To remember the numbers I think “five to ten”]

For more information see

Here is a short video to use as a teaching tool for children:

Here is a more detailed video for help in designing a 5210 program in a community:

My Review of Navigator 2.0 WSD

May 4, 2012

Excellent, with one exception

By ChasSC from SC on 5/4/2012
4out of 5

Pros: Durable, Stylish, Lightweight, Comfortable, Versatile

Cons: Need to upgrade chain

Best Uses: Leisurely Rides, Uneven Surfaces, Street Riding, Commuting, Exercise

Describe Yourself: Casual/ Recreational

Was this a gift?: No

I am a 69 year old male and traded in a 4 year old Specialized Expedition Sport for this one. I much prefer the “women’s” design, with low step-over, to the high cross-bar type. The Trek and Specialized bikes are comparable, but I like this one better — smoother ride, better fit. Initially, the gear shifting on this bike was rough and clunky, and the bike store owner finally told me the chains Trek uses on this bike are of inferior quality. He gave me a free upgraded chain, and it made a tremendous difference. I ride about 10 miles per day for exercise, fun, and grocery shopping. My wife has the Navigator 1.0 (and likes it), but the 2.0 is definitely worth the price difference. One odd thing is that the tires on the 2.0 hold 60 -80 psi, while those on the 1.0 hold 45 – 60. The bike dealer did not know this, so be sure to check for yourself.


Six small changes can help keep pounds off

January 14, 2011

This post is based on an article in the February 2011 issue of Consumer Reports magazine. The average middle-aged American gains 1 to 2 pounds per year. These six simple changes will at least help stop the weight gain, and may help you lose a few pounds.  Fad diets that promise more not only don’t work, most research shows they result in even more weight gain over the long run.

“Those who start with small changes often end up able to make more and bigger changes and lose more weight.”  James O. Hill, Ph.D. (University of Colorado)

1.  Stop drinking calories. Many drinks contain lots of calories.  Yet, when we consume calories in liquid form we don’t feel full or satisfied, so we eat just as much as we would without the beverage (or more, if the beverage contains alcohol or salt).  Calorie-free “diet” drinks do not cause weight gain, so are a better choice (but not as good as water).

2.  Eat more protein. Low-carb, high protein diets have proved surprisingly effective, especially in the short term. People who eat a higher proportion of their calories from protein end up consuming fewer calories overall. The bottom line is it can’t hurt to substitute a bit more lean protein for some of the fat and starches in your diet.

3.  Eat more fiber. “Fiber is the good guy of food,” according to the Consumer Reports article. “Grow the amount of vegetables on your plate and shrink everything else,” says Barbara Rolls, Ph.D. (Penn. State University).

4.  Lead yourself not into temptation. If there is an unhealthy food you crave, don’t have it where you can eat it impulsively.  See this post for more about the addictive properties of fat, salt and sugar in processed foods.

5.  Add 2000 steps per day. You can do this all at once, or divide it up, but the point is to get moving. See this post for more about exercise.

6.  Cut your screen time. This is related to number 5,  but is worth emphasizing because we spend more and more time seated in front of various screens (TV, computers, games).  Excessive screen time is correlated with more obesity and other health problems. For children, especially, it is important for parents to set limits on screen time, and to model by their own behavior how to stay active.

One more change: practice mindful eating. The best way to make this a habit is to write down everything you eat (keep a food log or diary).  If you do this, you will lose (or stop gaining) weight.

More on “Who needs exercise?”

June 8, 2008

After writing my last post on exercise, I came across this article, which has some very important implications for young people. Again, it shows how complex the question “who needs exercise?” is and how important it is to specify “for whom?” and “exactly what do you mean by exercise?”

Preventing Childhood Obesity: Vigorous Physical Activity—YES, Restricting Calories—NO*

by Bernard Gutin, PhD

My colleagues and I at the Medical College of Georgia investigated the relationship among diet, physical activity and body composition in 661 African American and white adolescents ages 14 to 18.1 We hypothesized that fatter youths would have higher levels of energy intake and lower levels of both moderate and vigorous physical activity.

To our surprise, we found that higher levels of percent body fat were associated with lower levels of energy intake and lower levels of vigorous (but not moderate) physical activity. Youths who did the most vigorous physical activity and consumed the most calories were the leanest. Those who did no vigorous physical activity had a percent body fat of 28.6 and consumed 1744 calories a day, while those who did at least 1 hour of vigorous physical activity each day had a percent body fat of 19.4 and consumed 2203 calories a day. See Relationship of Vigorous Physical Activity, Caloric Intake and Percent Body Fat.

Although moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, burns calories, we found that lower percent body fat was linked to greater amounts of vigorous, but not to moderate, physical activity. Vigorous activity includes sports, games and dance activities such as running, swimming, soccer and aerobic dancing. These activities impart a significant “mechanical load,” which means they work your body’s muscles and bones. This type of activity stimulates stem cells to differentiate into bone and muscle rather than fat.2 A healthy body composition in youths requires both a large amount of vigorous physical activity and ingestion of sufficient calories and nutrients to support this tissue-building process.

This idea is further supported by experimental studies that looked at the effect of mostly vigorous physical activity, without restriction of calories, on body composition. Research on youths with varying levels of fatness and fitness found moderate physical activity to be ineffective in preventing obesity, so we conducted studies using 300 to 400 minutes a week of mostly vigorous physical activity and found positive effects on body composition, including reduction of visceral adipose tissue (the fat around abdominal organs). Within the intervention groups, those youths who participated regularly and maintained the highest heart rates during the physical activity sessions showed the greatest decreases in percent body fat and the greatest increases in bone density.3,4

Youths who are obese and unfit can benefit from exercise of relatively low intensity and duration. For example, in obese youths, studies using 155 to 180 minutes per week of physical activity at moderate to high intensity produced favorable reductions of percent body fat and visceral adipose tissue and increases in bone density and aerobic fitness.5 As children improve in fitness, they should be encouraged to progress to higher amounts and intensities of physical activity.

An expert consensus panel has suggested that youths engage in at least 420 minutes a week (about 60 minutes a day) of moderate to vigorous physical activity.6 The research reviewed here suggests that greater emphasis should be given to vigorous rather than moderate physical activity.

Taken together, these findings suggest that a paradigm shift is needed to improve the effectiveness of pediatric obesity prevention interventions. It is well known that eating a nutritious diet supports the development of muscles and bone and other aspects of proper growth and development, as well as good health. However, limiting energy intake runs counter to the biologic demands of growth, which require adequate calories and nutrients. When youths engage in adequate amounts of vigorous physical activity, calories and nutrients are preferentially directed to the production of lean tissue (muscle and bone) rather than fat. So, insuring a high quality diet and plenty of exercise, rather than calorie restriction, is the model to pursue to prevent obesity and improve body composition.


* A longer version of this editorial will soon appear as a Perspective article in the journal Obesity.

Bernard (Bob) Gutin, PhD, is Adjunct Professor of Nutrition at University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and Professor Emeritus at Teachers College of Columbia University and the Medical College of Georgia.

Exercise — who needs it?

June 6, 2008

There has been a lot of controversy about the role of exercise in weight management. The old conventional wisdom has been that, to maintain weight, one needs to balance calories in with calories out, and that exercise is the way to boost the “out” side of the equation. That is still basically true, except we now know that it takes a lot of exercise to counterbalance a large intake of calories, and our bodies are real good at seeing that we eat more to fuel the extra exercise. Most research shows that the amount of exercise that improves our general physical and mental health (like 2 hours of moderate-intensity walking per week) is simply not sufficient to affect weight very much.

The fact that exercise had been oversold as a weight-loss aid has led to some very cynical articles claiming that exercise is practically useless for weight management (such as this and this). But these articles overlook two important facts:

1.) Thousands of reports of people who have lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off reveal that exercise is a key reason for their success. Many of these reports are featured on the National Weight Control Registry website (, which tracks people who have been successful in losing weight and keeping it off. Here is how the co-author of the website summarizes the role of exercise:

The key [according to James Hill] is exercise. ‘Activity becomes the driver; food restriction doesn’t do it. The idea that for the rest of your life you’re going to be hungry all the time – that’s just silly.’ People in the registry get an average of an hour of physical activity every day, with some exercising for as much as 90 minutes a day. They also keep the fat in their diet relatively low, at about 25 percent of their calorie intake. Nearly all of them eat breakfast every day, and they weigh themselves regularly. ‘They tell us two things,’ Hill says. ‘The quality of life is higher – life is better than it was before.’ And ‘they get to the point with physical activity where they don’t say they love it, but they say “It’s part of my life.” … I think you pay the price for having been obese and you have to do a lot of activity to make up for that.’

2.) There is a very important form of activity that is technically not exercise, but is crucial in determining our ability to lose or maintain weight. It is “non-exercise activity thermogenesis” or NEAT, and it accounts for a very significant proportion of our energy output. An excerpt from Weight Management for Your Life summarizes this research:

Research at the Mayo Clinic by James Levine, MD, has clearly shown that the more we move throughout the day, the more weight we lose (or don’t gain). He calls this kind of movement NEAT, which stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. For most of us, NEAT accounts for far more of our daily calorie expenditure than formal exercise does (even fidgeting uses calories!). Levine found that thin people are on their feet an average of 2.5 more hours a day than their overweight counterparts. NEAT is responsible for between 20 percent (in very sedentary “couch potatoes”) and 50 percent of our total daily energy expenditure. Most of the rest of our energy expenditure is due to “basal metabolism” (calories used when we are at complete rest) which accounts for up to 60 percent; and “thermic effect of food” (digestion, absorption, storage) which accounts for 10 to 15 percent. Levine discovered that our individual NEAT level is largely biologically determined (possibly genetically) and that people with a naturally low level can be taught to increase their “non-exercise activity.” He recommends that we aim for 40 percent NEAT by changing the way we work, such as standing while working and walking around during meetings and while on the phone. He uses a treadmill going very slowly (1 mph) throughout the day (a “walking workstation”); this kind of easy activity doubles our metabolic rate and uses an extra 100 calories per hour (compared to sitting). This would be a great way to watch TV!

What is the take-home message from all this?

First, be wary of articles, even from prestigious sources, that take an extreme view. Life is never so simple, and weight management is especially complicated and multi-faceted.

Second, how active we are (whether through formal exercise or NEAT) has a major effect on our health and our weight: the less sedentary the better.

Finally, what and how much we eat is just as important as exercise and activity.

Please let me know what your experience with exercise and non-exercise activity has been.

The power of social networks to improve health

May 22, 2008

Quitting smoking and losing weight (if you are overweight) are perhaps the two most important behavior changes you can make to improve your health. A new article in today’s New England Journal of Medicine confirms what a previous article has shown: people we interact with in our social network (friends, spouse, co-workers, etc.) strongly affect our behavior when it comes to smoking and weight gain or loss. We also affect the other people in our network. Today’s article is titled “The Collective Dynamics of Smoking in a Large Social Network” by Christakis NA, Fowler JH (NEJM, Volume 358:2249-2258). The earlier article, and similar research, is described in Weight Management for Your Life (p. 79):

In 2007, an article appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine with the title “The Spread of Obesity in a Large Social Network over 32 Years” [N Engl J Med. 2007 Jul 26;357(4):370-9] The same day the article was published it made front page news. No previous research had focused so intensively on “the obesity epidemic” as a social network phenomenon. The main finding of this elaborate study was that friends have a highly significant influence on our weight, specifically whether we become obese. The effect of friendship was surprisingly large and exceeded the influence of siblings and spouse (whose influence was also significant). … The editorial in the NEJM accompanying the article put it this way: “As the article by Christakis and Fowler [the researchers] shows, … networks, in this case those that pertain to social influence, may have just as strong an impact on the development of obesity as the otherwise strong genetic effects.”

These studies provide exciting and compelling evidence in favor of the bio-psycho-social model for disease and wellness, meaning that biological (e.g., genetic), psychological (e.g., coping) and social (e.g., interpersonal and cultural) factors interact to produce health problems and all must be addressed in reversing or treating these problems.