Personal training is expensive!

People spend triple on their cable than they are willing to spend on fitness!

I’ve been thinking about the cost of personal and small group training.

Is it too expensive?

No.

Not really.

I was recently asked for my recommendation – she was willing to spend $30/month for a gym with classes and kickboxing. I had no solid recommendations – as those facilities do not offer programs that I would generally recommend. I offered some guidelines for what to ask, such as are the instructors certified?, but I didn’t have much to say.

Prioritized spending

The average American spends $86 per month on cable (does not include internet or phone).

Fifty-six percent of Americans have a smartphone – average cost is $200 for the phone (with a 2-year contract) and $71 a month – versus $36 per month for those “dumb” phones (from the CTIA Wireless Association).

The average American adult spends $2295 a year on alcohol.

Read 10 Things Americans Waste Money On.

A little perspective

Compare this to what she is willing to spend on fitness.

$30 x 12 months = $360 a year.

Wow.

$852 or more a year for a cell phone. $2296 a year for alcohol. A measly $360 a year for fitness.

This makes me sad.

Life costs money

Please do not get me wrong, I do realize personal training can be expensive. That is why I choose to offer different levels of service. Small group training and classes make fitness more affordable. As to not be a hypocrite, let me be honest with you.

Do I have a smartphone? Yes. And I could probably do without, but it would make some of my business dealings more difficult.

Do I have cable? No. I do not even own a television.

Do I buy alcohol? Rarely. I do not have an iPad or tablet. I rarely eat out – eating healthy at home saves money and calories.

My frivolous spending is limited to coffee (black, no fru-fru drinks) and the occasional pair of shoes (which I have to be able to wear for work).

The bottomline

I am not saying that everyone can afford personal training and should hire a personal trainer. There are many individuals out there who truly cannot afford it. I am just sharing a little perspective.

Think about where you spend your hard-earned money – is this spending improving the quality of your life?

And as always, if you are working with or thinking about working with a trainer, make sure he or she is a qualified professional.

Like what you read? Please visit me at Better By Becca!

Take a second glance: Images of female athletes

Please visit Better By Becca for more posts!

Howard Schatz’s images of female athletes have re-emerged and gone viral. The images – intending to display the varying array of body types – are bothersome to me. Perhaps because of my own insecurities. But also because I know the way that our minds work: we compare.

Check out both images and the Huffington Post article here.

Let me lead you through a second glance.

I am an athlete

No, I do not train for a sport, but I am an athlete – training for life. I immediately scanned the sports – looking for those athletes that I could most relate with and I compared my body to theirs. I am often asked if I am a swimmer – so I scanned for the swimmers and compared my shoulders, my legs, and my torso to theirs. Nope, I do not look like them. While I am not in ‘ peak physical condition’ as the disclaimer says these athletes are, I cannot help but compare. That is what we do! We compare. We judge (we know we shouldn’t but we do). And we ultimately beat ourselves up. I train so hard, and dang!

Now, I did not beat myself up. I could see the flaws in the images…so it made it easy for me to keep from traveling down that dangerous slope of negative self-talk and self-criticism.

I will share one significant flaw – hopefully to keep you from seeing this as a true representation and to prevent you from allowing yourself to compare and spiral into a dangerous place of despair.

The images are not to scale

Unfortunately – and I noticed this almost immediately – the photos are not to scale. The images are presented in a manner that inherently leads us to compare the athletes to one another. Yet, the 5’5″ golfer stands taller than the 5’8.5″ bodybuilder.

It is a trick!

Minor? Maybe. But tricky, tricky, tricky!

That is just one example, if you look at the heights of these athletes, that screams of the deception.

The bottomline

The intentions are good. And yes, the bodies of athletes vary significantly. All human bodies vary significantly. But I feel that the presentation is flawed and deceiving.

I have heard several clients and friends talking about this ‘artwork.’ Some are disappointed by the lack of clothing. Some are truly amazed by the differences.

Me? I am disappointed and bothered.

What do YOU think and feel about these images?

Like what you read? Please comment and share below and visit me at www.betterbybecca.net.

CrossFit: The good, the bad, and the ugly

I have been avoiding this post. The thought and energy that I have put into this is exhausting. But time and time again:

Is CrossFit a good choice for me?

99% of the time my answer is NO! My intent is to educate and inform – including the good, the bad, and the ugly.

My need for answers and information

I am a person who needs answers. I need to approach a topic from all perspectives and angles before I make a decision. (I come across as highly opinionated, but I am also highly informed and I therefore have great confidence in my opinion.)

Given my need for information, I decided that I needed to seek out scholarly and scientific support for CrossFit – as if I wanted to promote it. I spent endless hours searching for anything peer-reviewed. I was searching for legitimate research for the CrossFit model. I sought the input of colleagues and exercise physiologists – do they know of any research?

Nothing.

I did come across a study that measured the energy expenditure of CrossFit workouts versus other high intensity workouts. I do not question that you expend energy, so this study was less than helpful (not to mention had only 40 participants). Beyond this, there was nothing scholarly. The health and fitness journals will not publish anything that lacks validity and reliability.

My thirst for reliable data and research was unfulfilled.

Been there, done that

I also participate before I draw a conclusion. I have been to a half a dozen CrossFit gyms – some in large metros and others in small town nowhere. Only one had reasonably qualified staff (St. Louis Park, MN). At each location, I was able to experience their ‘introductory’ class. Each class was taught a little different. At one location, we performed rowing, air squats, pushups, situps, and pullups. At another, the same workout but without the pullups. Each facility had large groups of prospects – there was no health history, no experience questionnaire, no technique instruction. You just went at it and completed the workout for time.

THE GOOD

I want to start with the good – because there are some good aspects. CrossFit thrives on building a community. Many joke about CrossFitters who have “drank the Kool-Aid” and the reality is that they have bonded with others. These social bonds – developed during times of vulnerability (most everyone has a certain level of vulnerability when trying to completely, physically exhaust themselves) – are meaningful and difficult to match. The support, accountability, and empowerment cultivated by the group dynamics is the #1 reason many individuals are attracted to CrossFit.

I must commend CrossFit, as many do require fundamental classes prior to graduating to full WODs. The only draw back to something like that is someone like me – new to CrossFit but not new to working out or the exercises – would be forced into those courses without the opportunity to bypass or test out if I can prove I have the ability and know-how.

Another good aspect is the use of workouts to measure improvements. This provides something tangible and quantitative to work towards. It is important to direct individuals away from weight-specific goals, so a goal to improve the time it takes to complete a workout is ideal. I do something similar – but different – for myself and my clients.

THE BAD

Not based on science

CrossFit is not based on the basic scientific principles established and continually tested by exercise physiologists. I did a scholar article search, looking for research that supports CrossFit – and I came up empty. The majority of articles that support CrossFit are written by Greg Glassman – who by the way quotes himself (big no-no).

I have asked CrossFit trainers and enthusiasts time and time again to show me the science from which the CrossFit model was designed – or the science that it follows. No one has been able to do this. Is it new science that has yet to be proven? The human body has not changed in over a hundred years – there is nothing new and the same principles apply today as they did then, and 50 years ago, and 10 years ago.

Wait a minute!

An interesting side note: Glassman – CrossFit founder – does not do CrossFit WODs. (Most say he suffered an injury that prevents him from participating. He does have a limp.)

I could not find a biography for Glassman. As far as the general public knows, he has no education nor credentials. If I had to guess, I would say that he has a marketing degree because he has done well in that respect.

Not ACSM’s Top 20

Here is food for thought, brought to my attention by a fellow exercise physiologists: CrossFit has never made it onto American College of Sports Medicine’s Top 20 Fitness Trends – a list they publish annually.

Why?

Because ACSM would never promote a program that so blatantly contradicts science and research.

THE UGLY

So there is good and there is bad. The same can be said for anything, right? But what is the ugly?

Injuries

SERIOUS and non-serious injuries persists. Yes, there is an inherent risk of injury to all physical activity. Yes, weight lifting has some of the lowest risk of any sport or activity – WHEN DONE PROPERLY. CrossFit is not known for proper form and technique – and watching it makes most professionals cringe.

Watch the CrossFit Games on ESPN – all of the top competitors are wearing kinesiology tape (a tool developed for physical therapist to use with clients through the therapeutic process). Kinesiology tape IS NOT something that makes you look cool. I used kinesiology tape after my knee surgery and through physical therapy to aid with the reduction of inflammation. It worked, I did my therapy, and I stopped wearing it. The use of kinesiology tape is indicative of impaired movement, muscular imbalances and weaknesses, poor quality of movement or mobility, etc.

You could argue that this is not a serious injury. Let’s think critically. How many of these athletes will compete for the rest of their lives? How many will have to give up some exercises completely because they lose mobility in their shoulder after working through this ‘non-serious’ injury?

Pain is NOT good and it is NOT something to work through. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong, “STOP.”

Threatens lifelong health and fitness

As mentioned above – how many athletes can sustain this level of training for a year? Two? Twenty? If an exercise causes injuries – whether it be traumatic or overuse – then it does not promote lifelong health and fitness – nor longevity.

Ask yourself, can you sustain this for the long term?

If an activity results in a chronic ailment that prevents you from living pain free – then it has negatively influenced your quality of life. Is that the goal of working out?

The bottomline

CrossFit is a workout for athletes. It claims to build athletes – but it does not train individuals to athletic fitness or using the basic scientific principles known to work – and known to reduce risk of injury along the way.

Is CrossFit all bad? No. Does the good outweigh the bad and the ugly? In my educated opinion – no. Plus, you can get a similar workout – with health and fitness benefits and greater concern for safety – from a functional fitness training facility with qualified trainers and staff.

p.s. Not one of my colleagues – most with master’s degrees, PhDs, and endless certifications – would workout at a CrossFit facility themselves. We are some of the fittest and most athletic individuals I know. We see the scientific flaws and prefer to train in safe, effective, and efficient manners. One has been a CrossFit Competition Champion 3 years running – never training ‘CrossFit.’ Something to think about.

p.p.s. Ask a medical professional – such as a chiropractor or orthopaedic surgeon – if he recommends CrossFit. Most will avoid a direct answer, he knows the inherent risks but it puts more money in his pocket.

Like what you read? Please comment and share below.

Response: A.M.A. recognizes obesity as a disease

I have seen a lot of responses to the recent declaration: Obesity is a disease. The responses are mixed. I am somewhat surprised that the ACSM supports it – but the announcement likely means more money in their pockets (with the Exercise is Medicine campaign). Who wouldn’t support an idea that puts more money in their pocket?

Me!! — I would rather see individuals succeed. A diagnosis of obesity does not set the platform for success – in fact it is counterproductive.

My reaction

I was initially outraged by this announcement. Obesity is NOT a disease. Suddenly, we are assigning another label to individuals. Supporters of the movement will argue that by defining obesity as a disease, those suffering with obesity will receive better medical assistance and insurance coverage for treatment. The problem? Sure, this could increase coverage for gastric bypass, lap band, etc – but is this really helping individuals? Is this a solution to the overwhelming problem?

Let me break this down to logical pieces and terms.

Obesity

Obesity is an abnormal accumulation of body fat, usually 20% or more over an individual’s ideal body weight. The most common measure used for obesity is BMI.

Disease

A disease is a condition of the living animal or plant body or of one of its parts that impairs normal functioning and is typically manifested by distinguishing signs and symptoms.

At first read, you might think that obesity does fit this definition. The above definition is quite vague and as stated could fit the equally vague definition of a disease. But one word jumps out at me: symptoms. Overweight/obesity is a symptom.

It is a symptom of overconsumption of calories (it is NOT the symptom of underactivity as a standalone).

It is the symptom of a metabolic condition.

It is the symptom of hormone imbalances.

With that said. Can a symptom of symptoms of it own? Or is obesity a symptom that correlates with other symptoms of a true disease or condition?

Symptom

Another vague definition. A symptom is: subjective evidence of disease or physical disturbance or something that indicates the existence of something else.

It is unclear to me as to whether a symptom and disease can be synonymous terms. I could get technical – since disease is used in the definition for a symptom and you cannot define a word by using the word itself in the definition, then symptom and disease cannot be one in the same.

Like my logic?

A Real Life Story

Let me put this into perspective. Medical professionals can now assign an individual with the disease of obesity (another wonderful label, by the way, for individuals already struggling with self-esteem, body-image, and stigma). How do doctors quantify obesity? Body Mass Index, or BMI. I have written about BMI and why it is not a good measure, please read the previous post by clicking the link.

I fluctuate between being overweight and obesity on the BMI scale – depending on the season and what I may be training for. However, my appearance and my body fat percentage clearly indicate otherwise. Does this mean that the doctor would approve liposuction for me as a non-elective alternative? In the past, I have had a doctor tell me that I needed to lose weight – because she did not bother to actually look at me and only looked at my BMI. Today, that same doctor would have labeled me obese, and that would have gone in my medical history and I would be dealing with the long-term effects of that being on my medical record (and there are implications! I have learned this, having arthritis in my medical record from age 16 – it creates huge battles with the insurance companies).

The bottomline

I have given a lot of thought to whether obesity is a disease – long before this announcement. It is not. And sadly, this new definition will not solve the nation’s obesity epidemic. We have added stigma to an already debilitating label.

What about self-esteem?

What about self-worth and empowerment? A disease implies there is not much one can do about it – when the number one method of prevention and treatment of overweight obesity is empowerment. Seems to me that we may be going in the wrong direction with this diagnosis —

But some people will be making a lot of money.

Response: Praying for Boston

It is a tragedy – to say the least. And it hits home. I have more than a dozen friends and clients who have run in the Boston Marathon. This prestigious event requires a considerable amount of time, effort, and heart on the part of the runner AND the runner’s family. Hours spent planning and training. The money spent on qualifying events, shoes, gear, and supplements. Only truly dedicated athletes – with the support of their friends and families – make it to Boston.

bostonI am thankful that none of my closest friends were running this year – but they are shaken. I am shaken. As we prep for the upcoming Green Bay Cellcom Marathon, I have more than half a dozen friends with their eyes set on qualifying for the 2014 Boston Marathon. It will happen for all of them – but now a part of me does not want them to go! There is a part of me that is thankful that Green Bay is such a small city – it makes me feel like it would be less of a target!

I will keep this short and sweet. My thoughts and prayers are with those who have been directly affected by this tragedy. My thoughts and prayers are also with those who have been indirectly affected – it has us shaking in our running shoes. Literally. But you know what positivity I take from this? I am more determined to run – and will run with all my heart!!

Yours in health,

Becca Rose

Today is World Health Day, but we missed World Physical Activity Day

April 6 was World Physical Activity Day. I did not see anything about it – not on Facebook, not on the news – I did not see anything anywhere. Organized by the International Society for Physical Activity & Health, it is not highly publicized. The American College of Sports Medicine did issue a press release, but I needed to dig for it – they did not even bother to post to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

World Physical Activity Day was developed to augment the World Health Organization’s World Health Day. TODAY, April 7, 2013, is World Health Day. World Health Day marks the anniversary of the World Health Organization (WHO). Click the link and you will see that even WHO does not make much ado about World Health Day.

I suppose, I could have written about World Physical Activity Day yesterday. But I did not have much to say. I wonder what it will take for WHO or another organization to promote World Physical Activity Day or something of the like. World Health Day has an annual theme, this year the focus is on high blood pressure. According to WHO, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy bodyweight are a few strategies for lowering blood pressure. So, to be fair, WHO’s World Health Day  – in a sense – does promote physical activity.

To learn more about World Physical Activity Day Google it, like I did – the best information can be found on Spanish-written websites.

Response: Mediterranean Diet not for weight loss

I read a blog post yesterday about the Mediterranean Diet. The post (specific author unknown to me and brought to me by my Facebook newsfeed) proposes that the Mediterranean Diet is not conducive to weight loss and declares that it is only good for improving heart health. This is an incredibly superficial understanding of nutrition and naive perspective. I would even go so far as to say that posting such information is professional negligence or malpractice.

I strongly believe that you should get your nutrition advice from a qualified nutrition professional. I AM NOT ONE. I feel like I have been writing more about nutrition than exercise or mental strategies lately – I only intend to make you think critically and then get the answers you need. And when I read posts like this and hear a story of a nutritionist telling a friend that a vegetable is not a carbohydrate (yes, true story), I become infuriated. It makes me angry and it makes me sad. As if individuals are not confused enough! This world is infiltrated with hogwash and I intend to do my small part to call attention to it.

Mediterranean Diet = weight loss?

Yes, a Mediterranean Diet will yield weight loss. The poorly misguided post ‘cites’ research (that focused on heart risks, bias much?) that claimed a Mediterranean diet improved heart health but did not result in weight loss. I put cites in quotes because the author claims that the New England Journal of Medicine conducted the research – really? A journal did research? More like researchers were published in the journal. But hey, it’s close and shows that the author does not understand how to accurately read and present research.

Moving on. Yes, the Mediterranean Diet is best known for its coronary benefits. Along with dietary guidelines, the diet emphasizes plenty of exercise. So, while weight loss may not have been significant in the study, fat loss probably was significant and not measured. Numerous studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet shows improved weight loss over other weight loss strategies (Mohamed, El-Swefy, Rashed, & Abd El-Latif, 2010; Razquin, Martínez, Martínez-González, Salas-Salvadó, Estruch, & Marti, 2010; Serra-Majem, Roman, & Estruch, 2006).

NOTE: Without proper citation by the author, I was unable to locate the so-called research among the thousands of articles published in the NEJM. Therefore, my argument is anecdotal but based on years of personal research and education.

Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet

Beyond heart benefits, the Mediterranean diet has been shown to increase fat loss (Serra-Majem, Roman, & Estruch, 2006). It is also known to prevent and ‘cure’ diabetes (Serra-Majem, Roman, & Estruch, 2006; Walker, O’Dea, Gomez, Girgis, & Colagiuri, 2010), decrease mental decline, reduce insulin resistance, and reduce metabolic disorders (which have a high comorbidity with overweight/obesity).

And I refer you to a nutrition professional for additional information.

Basic nutrition

This brings me back to the fact that very few weight loss “professionals” have an understanding of the basic nutrition principles and processes. It is appalling to me that any weight loss company would publish such hogwash. Seriously. A Mediterranean Diet not a weight loss diet? HOGWASH! I will over simplify this: A diet of fruits, veggies, lean meats, and healthy fats won’t yield weight loss? But a diet of Fig Newtons and graham crackers with pudding is a better solution (per the post’s publisher)?

I think it’s time to come back to the basics. I read textbooks for my information – but I realize this is too dense and time consuming for most individuals. I am beginning to put together a resource list of videos and websites to help my friends and readers increase personal understanding of nutrition!

The bottomline

I am not promoting a Mediterranean Diet. Nor am I discouraging it. I believe that the guidelines are reasonable and will work for some and will be difficult for others – as like any other change. It is not significantly different from a a low-carbohydrate diet, a low-glycemic index diet, or a Paleo diet. The most critical commonality? Eating more REAL food and less processed and packaged junk.

Further, this absurdity highlights the importance of weight loss versus fat loss. Body composition will often improve with no change in weight – with proper lifestyle improvements.

Lastly, please be a critical consumer. It is sad that I read this post on a page that I believed I could trust (at least to a certain degree). I now know otherwise.

References

Mediterranean-Style Diet Counters Metabolic Syndrome. (2011). Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter29(6), 6.

Mohamed, H. E., El-Swefy, S. E., Rashed, L. A., & Abd El-Latif, S. K. (2010). Obesity and neurodegeneration: effect of a Mediterranean dietary pattern. Nutritional Neuroscience13(5), 205-212.

Razquin, C. C., Martínez, J. A., Martínez-González, M. A., Salas-Salvadó, J. J., Estruch, R. R., & Marti, A. A. (2010). A 3-year Mediterranean-style dietary intervention may modulate the association between adiponectin gene variants and body weight change. European Journal Of Nutrition49(5), 311-319.

Serra-Majem, L., Roman, B., & Estruch, R. (2006). Scientific Evidence of Interventions Using the Mediterranean Diet: A Systematic Review. Nutrition Reviews64(2), S27-S47.

Walker, K. Z., O’Dea, K. K., Gomez, M. M., Girgis, S. S., & Colagiuri, R. R. (2010). Diet and exercise in the prevention of diabetes. Journal Of Human Nutrition & Dietetics23(4), 344-352.

Response: Food Babe’s unconventional habits

I know that the friend who sent me the guide to Food Babe’s Unconventional Habits is waiting for me to address this. The fact that someone who wrote this list might be respected and trusted in the health and wellness industry is appalling. While I have not taken the time to read her blog, after reading this single document, I know there is no need. She may have some useful advice to offer in between the bullsh&%t, but why should I bother to waste my time?

The unconventional habits

The guide promotes six unconventional habits – for what I am not exactly sure but it seems focused on weight loss. The six habits are:

  1. Drink warm lemon water and cayenne pepper.
  2. Eliminate refined sugar from your diet.
  3. Fast every single day.
  4. Drink a green drink every single day.
  5. Change your grocery store.
  6. Stop drinking with your meals.

I will address each of these individually and break down the ridiculousness – without becoming scientific.

Warm lemon water & cayenne pepper

Some individuals claim that this will boost your metabolism and increase your ability to burn fat. Food Babe promotes it as a detoxifyer and digestive cleanse. A good way to keep your digestive system clean? – chia seeds or something sticky that waste can attach to and then be removed from the body.

Eliminate refined sugar

Duh! Tell me something I did not know. How is this unconventional?

Fast every day

For at least 12 hours Food Babe proclaims. “It takes at least 8 hours for your body to completely digest it’s meals from the day. If you add in another 4 hours to that time without introducing more food to digest, the body actually goes into detoxification mode and has more time to remove dead and dying cells from the body.” Okay, so please refer to Nutrition 101 or any basic nutrition course and you will find for yourself that this is bogus advice. While there is some truth to the 8 hours to digest a meal, after 4 awake hours (approximately, each human body is different) the body will enter starvation mode. While in this mode, your body may shed dead or dying cells as a strategy for survival, but your metabolism will slow down and fat development will increase.

And yes, most of us sleep for more than 4 hours, but our bodily processes are very different while we are sleeping. For details on that, seek the advice of a qualified nutritional professional (e.g., registered dietition).

Drink a green drink

Sure. We all need more green stuff in our diets.  “As long as you chew your green drinks your body will be able to digest and receive the benefits. Don’t just slam down a smoothie or juice – you need that chewing action for digestive enzymes to do their magic.” Oh, I see….what makes this habit unconventional is that you have to CHEW your DRINK. Do most individuals need more greens in their diets? Yes. Is a daily, chewable green drink going to improve health???

Change your grocery store

What she is essentially saying is shop at a small, local and natural food store rather than a large, chain store because it is easier to shop and you will be less inclined to buy the crap. There are fewer distractions by highly processed and marketed foods. I can agree with this one – this is a great habit and strategy.

Do not drink with your meals.

Last, but not least – DO NOT DRINK WATER WITH YOUR MEALS. Sure, if you want to become constipated.  “Drinking liquids during your meal dilutes your naturally occurring digestive enzymes and stomach acids which makes it harder to breakdown food. Stomach acids are dissipated with the act of consumings liquids with solids because water is excreted faster than solids.” I am not sure what world Food Babe is living on. Water is ESSENTIAL for natural digestion. The military requires recruits to drink full glasses of water before they are even served their meals. The first dietary step to weight loss or health improvement is to increase water intake. The human body is 57-70% water (on average). If you do not consume enough water to support metabolic processes (we need H20 to convert food into fuel), it will acquire it from somewhere else within the body – increasing the risk of dehydration. Does that sound like good advice?

Want to know more about the importance of drinking water with your meals? Visit a trusted site with information provided by medical professionals, such as the Mayo Clinic.

The bottomline

Because of the absurdity of the last habit alone, I have no respect for anything that will be posted on the site. This advice should be considered professional negligence – only Food Babe is not a professional. I did read the about page – no credentials, just a few lines that say nothing and a plethora of pictures of her with celebrities. Do you find comfort in accepting advice from a novice? I know that I do not.

Think twice about the credibility and validity of the sources of advice. Reading this so-called unconventional habits makes me angry. I even hate writing this response because I do not want to boost Food Babe’s popularity in any way, shape, or form.

Yoga ball = School chair?

Today’s Star Tribune printed an article out of Pennsylvania, Teachers make move to improve student focus by ditching desk chairs in favor of yoga balls. The shallow article does not include specific references and vaguely refers to nonexperimental research. Do you trust the article?

The research

I took it upon myself to find the research. Oddly enough, I have yet to find any scholarly research that supports the claims made in this news article. The research of Kilbourne (2009), who is mentioned in the article, is unscientific and purely qualitative. For example, students were asked before and after using the exercise balls to rank their perceived level of focus. A self-report measure, really? How about – at a minimum – using a math time table test score????

The ball 

A yoga ball? The stability ball – best known to Americans as a Swiss ball – has origins in physical therapy. Pilates, yoga, and other schools of exercise adopted the tool, incorporating them into workouts. I have a number of friends who are teachers – would you seriously consider replacing your chairs with stability balls on a permanent basis?

Improved focus

This is a hot research topic in my field (sport and exercise psychology). Does exercise improve cognitive processes? Cognitive performance seems to be improved by lower exercise intensities immediately after exercise, but by higher intensities after a period of physical recovery (Pesce, 2012). Further, findings support that with increasing cognitive task difficulty, performance would be worsened by a withdrawal of resources away from the task and towards motor control (Pesce, 2012). In dual-processing tasks – one task will always suffer.

Improved balance & posture

There is no scientific evidence that sitting on a stability ball will improve balance. Based on what exercise physiologists know about the human body and its ability to adapt, an individual may see minimal improvements initially and then nothing moving forward. In fact, as the human body adapts to sitting on a stability chair, posture will not be effected and may even be adversely effected.

Inappropriate generalization

This is a common error of our society – cherry picking information and applying it in ways that are not intended. For example, there is plenty of evidence to support the dose response of exercise (Everhart, 2012; Travlos, 2010). Attention levels and aptitude to learn have been shown to increase following bouts of physical activity.

The bottomline

Research supports improved learning following physical activity. The research specific to concurrent physical activity remains inconclusive. The reports in this article are unfounded and need to be critically assessed before implemented. The proposed benefits, such as improved focus, defy research findings – as well as logic.

One important aspect of school is learning social skills and socially acceptable behaviors. Allowing children to bounce all day? – maybe I am the only one that views this as a way to exacerbate attention disorders. Children need to learn to sit still, as they will need to sit still in life. While children are designed and need to move, it would be more beneficial to get out of the chair on a more consistent basis.

While there may be minimal benefits – there are also significant physiological and biomechanical risks associated with the use of stability balls as chairs.

However, sitting on a ball could reduce the prevalence of leg crossing – which may reduce hip and knee injuries – but this is me making a hypothetical claim (I did not find any research to support this).

References

Everhart, B. (2012). The influence of daily structured physical activity on academic progress of elementary students with intellectual disabilities. Education,133(2), 298-312.

Kilbourne, J. (2009). Sharpening the Mind Through Movement: Using Exercise Balls as Chairs in a University Class. Chronicle Of Kinesiology & Physical Education In Higher Education20(1), 10-15.

Pesce, C. (2012). Shifting the Focus From Quantitative to Qualitative Exercise Characteristics in Exercise and Cognition Research. Journal Of Sport & Exercise Psychology34(6), 766-786.

Travlos, A. K. (2010). High intensity physical education classes and cognitive performance in eighth-grade students: An applied study. International Journal Of Sport & Exercise Psychology8(3), 302-311.

Protein bars – A better choice?

I was at Target yesterday, where they were serving samples of Clif Builder’s protein bars. As we walked away, a mother approached the samples and said to her child, “these would be good snacks for you to bring to school.” This made me want to stand next to the samples with some sort of educational materials. Marketing has done its job – we think that protein bars are good nutrition for us AND our children. Sadly, a protein bar is not a good choice for either. In my opinion, retailing protein bars as ‘nutrition bars’ should be illegal.

Purpose of protein bars

Protein bars were initially designed for endurance athletes – something easy to eat before/during/after high intensity activity. Despite the fact that protein bars have become mainstream, most have not changed their nutritional makeup to meet the needs of our daily lives.

Protein bars have a high nutrient density. They often contain high levels of fat, sugar, protein, etc. – for the purpose of sustaining an athletes intense energy expenditure. What happens if you consume more of these nutrients than you need? They become converted into fat (i.e., adipose tissue). What happens of you consume more protein than you need? It is converted into fat.

How much protein can the body use?

You see the protein bars that advertise containing 20+ grams of protein. The more protein the better, right? WRONG. You body can only utilize approximately 8 to 10 grams of protein an hour. While some experts suggest eating as much as 30 grams of protein at MEALS, this is ingested along with other foods that influence the length of digestion (sometimes hours). Anything above and beyond what the body can use will be converted into fat, storing it for later usage.

The facts

What is in a protein bar? For the sake of this post, I will remain with the Clif Builder’s bar.

Look at all the awesome stuff! First, let us remember that the Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet – which applies directly to very few of us. If you do not already know, please learn to read labels! I am not going to address everything on these Nutrition Facts, but I want to highlight a few things.

Calories – 270. 13.5% of a 2000 calorie diet, I suppose this may be a snack. Snacks should generally be limited to approximately 200 calories.

Saturated Fat – 25%. 13.5% of your daily calories but 25% of your saturated fat? If you are not using the fat as fuel (like an athlete may be), it will be stored as fat.

Total Carbs – 10%. Let me begin by saying that this is incredibly misleading. Look at the sub categories and there are 20 grams of sugars. I have previously written about sugar and how much sugar you can utilize at a given time.

Protein – 20 grams or 40%. Look at the math – 13.5% of your calories and 40% of your protein. Does this make sense? So what are you going to eat for the remaining 86.5% of your calories? Protein contains 4 calories per gram, so 80 of the 270 calories are from protein. Where do the other calories come from? I will let you do the math – I hate math. (Hint: 80 calories from the sugar. That leaves 110 calories. 72 from fat, leaving 38 calories from carbohydrates other than sugar.)

Protein bars and weight loss

Are you on a weight loss journey and using protein bars in place of meals or snacks? How is that working for you – honestly? Are you bloated? Unfortunate for us and fortunate for the protein bar industry – many individuals who are overweight and losing do not know when they are bloated. Unfortunately, most overweight individuals have been bloated for a significant amount of time and would not be able to tell the different of whether the bar elicited water retention or bloating. (What does sugar do?).

Remember, a protein bar is highly processed. I did not include the ingredient list for the Clif Builder’s bar above, but you can view it on their website. The list is not terrible, but not great. They use ‘sexy’ terms like no trans fat and organic. The bar provides sustained energy. What does that mean? Do you need energy to sit in your chair at work? If so, how much energy do you need?

I know, I am asking a lot of questions and not giving the answers. I want YOU to think critically.

Protein bars and muscle building

The name, Clif Builder’s, infers muscle building – correct? I know very few bodybuilders who eat protein bars – because they are mindful and go for the most effective and efficient sources. The cut and ripped look of bodybuilders comes from natural proteins – supplemented with shakes and other things not critical to the point of this post. Will a protein bar assist with muscle building? Slightly. Is that what it is designed for? No.

The bottomline

This post just addressed the outer edges of this issue and is oversimplified. Just know, a protein is NOT designed for regular consumption by an average individual. Marketing will lead you to believe otherwise. Bars for women (Luna Bars?). Snack sized bars. Meal Replacement bars. And what are all these bars? Glorified candy bars and granola bars. Processed junk that our bodies are not designed to process and digest.

Are protein bars a better choice? Better than what? A candy bar? Give me a choice between a Clif bar and a Snickers – and I will always pick the Snickers. A – it tastes better. B – the overall nutritional benefit is nearly identical. (i.e., fewer total calories, same saturated fat, modestly more sugar, and protein within and absorbable range)

Do you eat protein bars? You might want to think twice – – –