Using Technology to Get Fit and Stay Fit

Using Technology to Get Fit and Stay Fit

Adopting a habit of regular exercise doesn’t require special equipment or gadgets. It can be as simple as putting on a pair of shoes and heading out for daily walks. For many people, that’s enough. But if you’re easily bored or enjoy using technology to enhance ordinary tasks, take your fun and fitness to the next level with electronic exercise gadgets and digital devices. Read More

Is Yoga Right for You?

Considering it’s thousands of years old, it might seem silly to say that yoga has come a long way in recent years. But as mind/body exercise continues to take hold of the fitness industry, the practice of yoga has moved from the alternative to the mainstream.

Today’s hectic lifestyle has left many people wondering how to manage the stress that comes along with it. While regular aerobic exercise and strength training can help, they aren’t the complete answer. Some experts and practitioners believe that yoga is the piece you need to complete the puzzle of maintaining fitness in both the body and mind. Read More

Healthy Hydration

Water is one of the most essential components of the human body. Water regulates the body’s temperature, cushions and protects vital organs and aids the digestive system. Water not only composes 75% of all muscle tissue and about 10% of fatty tissue, but it also acts within each cell to transport nutrients and dispel waste. And, because water composes more than half of the human body, it is impossible to sustain life for more than a week without it.

Water Loss

Necessary to the healthy function of all internal organs, water must be consumed to replace the amount lost each day during basic activities. According to the Food and Nutrition Board, it is recommended that women consume 2.7 liters (91 oz) daily and men consume 3.7 liters (125 oz) through various beverages (80%) or in food (20%). Active individuals need even more, particularly if they’re exercising in hot weather. This is especially important during the 24 hours prior to vigorous exercise. You can meet your body’s water needs over the course of a day through a variety of fluids and foods, including juices, soda, smoothies, tea, lemonade, soups, fruits and vegetables.

In one hour of exercise the body can lose more than a quart of water, depending on exercise intensity and air temperature. If there is not enough water for the body to cool itself through perspiration, the body enters a state of dehydration.

Dehydration

For regular exercisers, maintaining a constant supply of water in the body is essential to performance. Dehydration leads to muscle fatigue and loss of coordination. Even small amounts of water loss may hinder athletic performance.

In a dehydrated state the body is unable to cool itself efficiently, leading to heat exhaustion and possibly heat stroke. Without an adequate supply of water, the body will lack energy and muscles may develop cramps.

To prevent dehydration, exercisers must drink before, during and after each workout.

Fluid Balance and Replenishment

It is important to drink even before signs of thirst appear. One way to check your hydration level is to monitor your urine. It should be plentiful and pale yellow unless you are taking supplements, which will darken the color for several hours after consumption.

During exercise, water is the best fluid replenisher for most individuals, although sports drinks help replace lost electrolytes during high-intensity exercise exceeding 45 to 60 minutes. Individuals who sweat profusely during exercise and whose sweat contains a high amount of sodium (you may notice salt stains/rings on your athletic wear) should choose sports drinks and ensure that their diet contains adequate sodium to prevent hyponatremia (water intoxication). Contrary to popular belief, scientific evidence suggests that moderate caffeine intake does not compromise exercise performance or hydration status. However, alcohol consumption can interfere with muscle recovery from exercise and negatively affect a variety of performance variables.

It is easy to prevent dehydration with a variety of refreshing beverages, so drink up!

Hydration Hints

  • Drink 17 to 20 ounces of water two hours before the start of exercise.
  • Drink 7 to 10 ounces of fluid every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise.
  • Drink 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost after exercise.

Hint: Rehydration occurs faster in the presence of sodium, regardless of whether it is provided in a sports drink.

Can Exercise Reduce Your Risk of Catching a Cold?

Sir William Osler, the famous Canadian medical doctor, once quipped, “There’s only one way to treat the common cold—with contempt.” And for good reason. The average adult has two to three respiratory infections each year. That number jumps to six or seven for young children.

Whether or not you get sick with a cold after being exposed to a virus depends on the many factors that affect your immune system. Old age, cigarette smoking, mental stress, poor nutrition and lack of sleep have all been associated with impaired immune function and increased risk of infection.

Keeping the Immune System in Good Shape

Research has established a link between moderate, regular exercise and a strong immune system. Early studies reported that recreational exercisers reported fewer colds once they began running. Moderate exercise has been linked to a positive immune system response and a temporary boost in the production of macrophages, the cells that attack bacteria. It is believed that regular, consistent exercise can lead to substantial benefits in immune system health over the long term.

More recent studies have shown that there are physiological changes in the immune system as a response to exercise. During moderate exercise, immune cells circulate through the body more quickly and are better able to kill bacteria and viruses. After exercise ends, the immune system generally returns to normal within a few hours, but consistent, regular exercise seems to make these changes a bit more long-lasting.

According to professor David Nieman, Dr. PH., of Appalachian State University, when moderate exercise is repeated on a near-daily basis there is a cumulative effect that leads to a long-term immune response. His research showed that those who perform a moderate-intensity walk for 40 minutes per day had half as many sick days due to colds or sore throats as those who don’t exercise.

On the other hand, there is also evidence that too much intense exercise can reduce immunity. Research shows that more than 90 minutes of high-intensity endurance exercise can make athletes susceptible to illness for up to 72 hours after the exercise session. This is important information for those who compete in longer events such as marathons or triathlons. Intense exercise seems to cause a temporary decrease in immune system function. During intense physical exertion, the body produces certain hormones that temporarily lower immunity. Cortisol and adrenaline, known as the stress hormones, raise blood pressure and cholesterol levels and suppress the immune system.

Should you exercise when sick?

Fitness enthusiasts and endurance athletes alike are often uncertain of whether they should exercise or rest when sick. Most sports-medicine experts in this area recommend that if you have symptoms of a common cold with no fever (that is, symptoms are above the neck), moderate exercise such as walking is probably safe.

Intensive exercise should be postponed until a few days after the symptoms have gone away. However, if there are symptoms or signs of the flu (fever, extreme tiredness, muscle aches, swollen lymph glands), then at least two weeks should probably be allowed before you resume intensive training.

Staying in Shape to Exercise

For athletes who are training intensely for competition, the following guidelines can help reduce their odds of getting sick.

  • Eat a well-balanced diet—The immune system depends on many vitamins and minerals for optimal function. However, at this time, there is no good data to support supplementation beyond 100% of the Recommended Dietary Allowances.
  • Avoid rapid weight loss—Low-calorie diets, long-term fasting and rapid weight loss have been shown to impair immune function. Losing weight while training heavily is not good for the immune system.
  • Obtain adequate sleep—Major sleep disruptions (getting three hours less than normal) have been linked to immune suppression.
  • Avoid overtraining and chronic fatigue—Space vigorous workouts and race events as far apart as possible. Keep “within yourself” and don’t push beyond your ability to recover.

Additional Resource

American College of Sports Medicine Current Comment—Exercise and the Common Cold: www.acsm.org/

 

Exercise and Asthma

Asthma is an increasingly common lung disease in the U.S. People who have asthma have inflamed and highly irritable airways. When the airways are exposed to irritants, they narrow, making breathing more difficult. Signs of asthma include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and difficulty breathing, especially at night and early in the morning. Common irritants include tobacco smoke, air pollution, viral infection and allergens like dust mites and cat dander. Vigorous exercise also can act like an irritant by triggering airway spasm and narrowing. This is referred to as exercise-induced asthma.

The ABCs of Exercise-induced Asthma

About five to 10 minutes into a strenuous soccer game you start to cough and feel short of breath. You tell yourself that you’re out of shape and recommit to your resolution to participate in vigorous cardiovascular exercise at least three days per week. But then, the next time and the time after that the same feelings of difficulty breathing set in. You finally go visit your doctor, who tells you that you have asthma. But this only happens with exercise, you say.

If that’s the case, you’re one of 5 to 10% of people with asthma who only experience symptoms with exercise. On the other hand, 90% of people with asthma have exercise-induced symptoms. Exercise-induced asthma attacks may start during exercise or shortly after exercise. These episodes tend to be shorter than attacks with other triggers.

Many people with asthma avoid exercise, thinking it will do more harm than good. The truth is that people with asthma can experience the same benefits from exercise as everyone else. And with the proper precautions, the risks are significantly lessened.

Exercising With Asthma

First, have a thorough medical evaluation and obtain your doctor’s permission before beginning an exercise program. Your doctor will probably prescribe you a medicine to help keep your airways open during exercise. For example, you may be instructed to take albuterol, a short-acting inhaled bronchodilator, 15 minutes before exercise to prevent symptoms for up to about four hours.

Once you receive clearance from your doctor, consider the following exercise guidelines:

  • Always have medication nearby for use in the event of an asthma attack. Be aware of early signs of an asthma attack, such as shortness of breath and coughing.
  • Take extra time (aim for 15 minutes) to warm up before exercising. This helps the airway retain a more normal size.
  • Prolong your cool-down. The second most likely time to experience an exercise-induced asthma attack is in the five to 10 minutes after exercise. By gradually decreasing intensity, you reduce your risk.
  • Be aware of your exercise environment. Avoid exposure to other asthma triggers such as pollen and pollution when exercising. A warm and humid environment (like that in a pool) reduces exposure of the lungs to cool, dry air—the suspected cause of exercise-induced asthma.
  • Consider exercising at the lower end of your target heart-rate range and incorporating intervals for high-intensity training to minimize your risk of an asthma attack. Choose exercises least likely to trigger an attack, such as pool swimming and walking.
  • Maintain adequate hydration. This will decrease mucous accumulation in the airways, thus reducing risk for an asthma attack or a future infection like bronchitis or pneumonia.
  • Maximize air exchange with diaphragmatic breathing. Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale through your mouth. With each inhalation you should see or feel your belly rise.
  • Rest when necessary and listen to what your body is telling you.

Keep Your Options Open

Asthma does not equate to an inactive life. In fact, six-time Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner–Kersee achieved the highest levels of athletic success despite having asthma. As long as you and your physician are comfortable with your level of activity, nothing should keep you from doing the activities that keep you happy and healthy. An ACE-certified Advanced Health & Fitness Specialist can help you design the program that’s just right for you if you need help getting started.

Additional Resources

American Academy of Asthma, Allergy, & Immunology
Mayo Clinic
Medline Plus

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