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The Perfect Push Up

The Perfect Push Up Exercise Gimmick Although push-ups are the most rudimentary exercise in existence, multiple companies have produced ridiculous gimmicks to help you do the Perfect Push-up!

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Research Blogging Awards 2010 Finalist Obesity Panacea has been named a Finalist for the 2010 Research Blogging Awards! You can see all the nominees by clicking on the link below.

This Week: In Brief (Jan. 24-30, 2010)

Sunday, January 31, 2010 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 0 Responses


While we regularly post lengthy discussions on Obesity Panacea, there are many research updates, news stories, videos, etc. in the field of obesity, physical activity and nutrition that we come across on a daily basis that never grace the pages of the blog. Most of these mini-stories we share with our followers on Twitter, and we encourage those of you with active Twitter accounts to communicate with us there to get real-time updates of all the stuff we are discussing (Follow Peter and/or Follow Travis). For those of you who shy away from Twitter, enjoy below the best mini-stories that we came across during the prior week along with links to the original source so that you can follow the full story.

- Gym injuries more common that you think; thousands land in ER from accidents on treadmills, exercise balls etc. http://bit.ly/b695p2

- Great new editorial on the rise and fall of the "metabolic syndrome" http://bit.ly/7NHYhz

- Study: Reducing dietary salt by 3 g per day is projected to reduce the annual number of US deaths by up to 92,000: http://bit.ly/77l1jf

-Will eating slowly help curb appetite? Excellent summary of available research (Nutritional Blogma)

- Study: UK kids who bike or walk to school are fitter than passive transport users: http://bit.ly/dySuhb

- Fast food diet plans: say goodbye to Jenny Craig and hit the drive thru? http://bit.ly/d4uBjk

-Couple starved their baby by putting laxatives in her bottle to prevent her from becoming fat: http://bit.ly/ae1Pmd

- Protesters plan to "overdose" on homepathic meds to prove they are useless: http://bit.ly/cx0XJj

- Canadian physical activity guidelines may need to increase to 60-90 minutes/day http://tiny.cc/OGQnN

- Running barefoot versus running in shoes (The Science of Sport)

- The Endobarrier or "Duodenal Condom": the cure for diabetes and obesity (Weighty Matters)

- Primary care needs to restructure its approach to obesity treatment (Dr. Sharma's Obesity Notes)

Have a great weekend, and to know what we're reading in real-time, be sure to...

Peter Janiszewski

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Canadian Kids - Heavier and Less Fit Than in 1981

Friday, January 29, 2010 Author: Travis Saunders 1 Response
Image by Mike Baird.

For a couple weeks now I have been waiting to discuss a very important new paper published on data from the Canadian Health Measures Survey (CHMS).  For nerds researchers like Peter and myself the CHMS is just about the coolest thing ever.  I'm going to go into a few of the many reasons as to why it's so great, but if you're willing to take my word for it, feel free to skip the next paragraph.

The CHMS is a nationally representative survey of 5,000 Canadians, which is cool, but that is not what makes it so special.  The CHMS is unique because, unlike most large surveys, everything is directly measured.  So participants don't just report their height and weight - they are measured by researchers.  So is physical fitness, physical activity, and a ridiculous number of other variables including everything from cholesterol to oral health and infectious disease.  This is a huge deal, since people tend to over-report height, under-report weight, and forget a whole lot else.  So information from a study like this has quite a bit less error than most traditional surveys.  And the best part of the whole thing is that researchers have access to this data for free!!!  So far the data has only been released to Statistics Canada researchers, but in a few months it will be opened up to the rest of us, which is absolutely awesome.  And of course it will also give us tremendously valuable information about the health of Canadians.  Which is what brings me to one of the first studies to be published using the CHMS data, titled Fitness of Canadian Children and Youth: Results from the 2007-2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey.

As the title suggests, this paper reports the current levels of both fitness and obesity in Canadian youth.  What's more, they also compare the data to similar information collected in 1981 as part of the Canadian Fitness Survey.  The result is a very interesting portrait of the health of Canadian youth.

So how does the current generation stack up?  Not surprisingly, in comparison to children in 1981, current Canadian youth are heavier, have larger waist circumferences, poorer grip strength, and even worse trunk flexibility than in 1981 (interestingly, they are also taller, although it doesn't look like it accounts for the increased weight).  Unfortunately aerobic fitness in 1981 was measured using a slightly different protocol than the current study, so the authors did not compare the two, although it would be a pretty safe bet that aerobic fitness is lower now than in 1981 as well.  I have used the paper to graph some of the most interesting variables below, for boys and girls aged 11-14.  All of the differences are statistically significant, and all of the variables have moved in an unhealthy direction.




What is the take-home message?

This paper confirms what we were all expecting - Canadian kids are heavier and less physically fit than ever before, and this is a very real concern for all of us.  People tend to gain weight and become less fit with age.  The authors point out that if this generation follows the same body weight trajectory as has been seen in previous generations, "the average 11- to 14-year old Canadian of today will be overweight by age 36".   This means that we can expect this generation to experience increased risk of chronic disease at a younger age than previous generations as well.   A sobering message to say the least, but it is an important reminder of the importance of these issues to the health and well-being of our society.

The paper itself is available for free on the Health Reports website, and I would urge everyone to take a look.  The paper has a very nice figure that contrasts the silhouette of a current 12-year old with that of a 12-year old from 1981, and the figure alone is worth downloading the entire paper (there are also are quite a few variables that I didn't have room to mention in this post).  And finally, be sure to check out the companion paper titled Fitness of Canadian Adults: Results From the 2007-2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey, which I hope to discuss on the blog in the future (although in general, the results seem similar to what was shown in children in the graphs I've shown above).  The current issue of Health Reports also contains what is likely to be an influential paper on the important role of quality control in the use of accelerometers for the measurement of physical activity, but that will have to wait for another day as well.

Have a great weekend!

Travis Saunders

ResearchBlogging.orgMark S Tremblay, Margot Shields, Manon Laviolette, Cora L. Craig, Ian Janssen, & Sarah Connor Gorber (2010). Fitness of Canadian Children and Youth: Results from the 2007-2009 Canadian Health Measures Survey Health Reports, 21 (1), 1-7

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10 Most Annoying Gym Personalities: Tips on Proper Gym Etiquette Part 2

Wednesday, January 27, 2010 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 22 Responses
In the first post in this series on gym etiquette we covered the area of appropriate dress code for working out. In this second post in the series we take a look at the top 10 worst gym personalities, as a means to help you clearly identify and classify inappropriate gym behavior, and to help you steer clear from inadvertently falling into one of these categories as you embark on your fitness journey (for the third and final post in this series, click here).

In no particular order, here is a list of the most annoying gym goers that I have personally come across over the years. Many workouts have been ruined on their account, so please allow me to vent my pent up frustrations in the cathartic swell below.

1. The American Idol: It is increasingly popular that gym goers do their workouts while listening to their iPods. While I personally prefer not to, I have absolutely no problem with it. Many people swear that their music helps them get in the zone and increase the intensity of their workouts while reducing the perception of effort. All this is copacetic. The problem arises when people confuse the gym with a Karaoke bar. The American Idol has somehow arrived at the completely delusional conclusion that their tone-deaf interpretation of Thin Lizzy’s “Boys are Back in Town” should be applauded by their fellow exercisers.

Hint: Stop It! When you get dirty looks from EVERYONE around you, it may be time to step off the stage and re-enter the reality of a gym.

2. The Boneparte: Many guys who enter the gym for the first time, particularly those of a slight or ectomorphic build, become intimidated by their perceived physical inferiority to the more established gym goers. As we all had to start from somewhere, we’ve all been there. The issue with The Bonepartes, is that they respond to their perceived inferiority by severe and often dangerous overcompensation. They put more weight on the squat bar than they should, and inevitably end up on the ground, trapped underneath the weight of their stupidity. I can’t tell you how many guys I have rescued from choking themselves out with a barbell while doing benchpress and not knowing their limits.

Hint: If you need your friend to hand you the weights because you can’t actually lift them yourself, it’s probably a good indication you should be using less weight. Also, if the only way you can squeeze out a single rep of a given exercise (albeit with atrocious form) is with your workout partner lifting 80% of the load – time to downsize Napoleon! If ridicule is your fear, you will attract much more of it by dropping a dumbbell on your head than doing an exercise properly with lighter weight.

3. The Kanye West: Given that the gym attracts those individuals who are concerned about their health and appearance, it is expected that you could bump into a few egomaniacs along the way. How can you spot the Kanye West at your gym? Easy – look for the mirrors! The Kanye’s will be found mesmerized by their own reflection as they perform any of the following: roll up their sleeves and flex their biceps, run their hands through their hair, nonchalantly lift their shirts to flex their abs. You may find engaging in conversation with a Kanye West a tad difficult as they will often talk (usually unengaged) to you while continuing to stare at themselves in the mirror.

Hint: Experts agree that the proportion of time at the gym spent posing in front of a mirror is negatively associated with any fitness gains, but positively related (R2 = 0.98) with being ridiculed and looking like a moron.

4. The Perez Hilton: While both genders can be equally guilty of being a Perez Hilton at the gym, most recently I’ve noticed a huge surge in the number of females who congregate on exercise mats simply to chat and gossip. Every once in a while they may stretch an arm or leg, but for the most part, their mouth is getting the majority of the workout.

Hint: Sitting on an exercise mat for over an hour while doing nothing other than chatting is not actually working out. Given the gym is for actually doing something, and space is limited, please just go to a coffee shop and do your gossiping there. And think – you won’t even have to change into gym clothes for that purpose!

5. The Screamer: Competing for airwave domination with the American Idol is the always present gym Screamer. Although most people think that only hardcore weight lifters scream because they are lifting tons of weight, this is a common misconception. In fact, screamers come in all shapes and sizes. Oddly enough though, they are almost always males. My take on screaming is the following: when a 100lb girl is squatting more weight than you in the next rack over, and is doing so silently, there is no reason for you to be grunting like a rabid boar.

Hint: Breathe regularly during each exercise. Grunting and yelling when bench-pressing the 45lb bar is completely unnecessary, and in fact can pose a safety hazard for those around you who may actually be lifting a relatively heavy load and are trying to concentrate.

6. The Backstage Ass: The Backstage Ass is a relatively new species of gym goer that I only came across recently. This individual is so hardcore that even after they worked out in the appropriate gym space, they just haven’t gotten enough. The obvious solution? Exercise in the change room! That’s right, nothing says you are an intense exerciser more than a set of pushups amongst other naked men.

Hint: Next time you’re in the locker room feeling like you aren’t quite finished, just make your way back to the gym and finish up there. You can just wear a bandana to let everyone know how intense you are.

7. The Chris Benoit: The Benoits are a staple of most weight rooms, although they will never be spotted near any cardio equipment. The Benoits, also known as juice monkeys, all have this in common: obvious abuse of steroids and associated extreme anger and hostility. In other words, the Benoits exhibit the obvious signs of Roid Rage. They often grunt and scream, like the Screamers above, but more often than not they yell obscenities. Then can be found standing near their workout area simply swearing for no reason. They often find it necessary to throw their dumbbells around, and make as much noise and disruption as possible. Another sure sign of a Chris Benoit are the following: severe acne, gynecomastia (breast development) and testicular atrophy. Despite their athrophied testes, be warned, however, you should not approach their vicinity as mere eye contact may be enough to set these Neanderthals off.

Hint: For the sake of your health, it may be a good idea to drop the juice. For the sake of social integration, drop the bully attitude you perfected in grade school.

8. The Uninvited Expert: “Hey, did you know that if you turn your feet 5 degrees outwardly you can really fire up the glutes when doing that squat.” “You should really try clenching your butt when doing bench-press – it really helps develop your core.” “Acai berry supplements get you really jacked, you should try it. Rachael Ray even endorses it!” These are just a few examples of the misinformation many Uninvited Experts feel necessary to tell you while you are working out. In many situations, the Uninvited Experts are actually staff members at the gym you are attending. Be careful with advice that spills out of these “experts”; despite their confidence in their own knowledge, a weekend course and a subscription to Men’s Health rarely provides one with adequate understanding of exercise physiology.

Hint: Unless asked for advice, please keep it to yourself.

9. The Rico Suave: The Rico Suaves are a huge aggravator for many female gym goers. Rather than working out, the Rico Suave lurks silently until he finds his pray: a female. In a flash, he pounces and drops any of the following on an unsuspecting female victim: “Hey, do you need a spot?”, “So, you like working out, eh?”, “Do you mind if I do my bicep curls (and grunt) directly in front of you despite the fact there is plenty of space elsewhere?”, “You want to get a protein shake after this?”

Hint: The large majority of females at the gym are there for one purpose: to get a workout, clear their head and de-stress. Unless the female you are attempting to woo is a Bar Star (see below), let her exercise in peace and save your pickup lines (and the inevitable rejections) for the bar that night.

10. The Bar Star: The female equivalent of the Rico Suave. Tube top, hoop earrings, a pound of make-up, and not a bead of sweat – the defining features of the Bar Star. Much like Rico above, the Bar Star frequents a gym not for any fitness purpose, but to find a suitable mate. If I had my way, each gym would actually have a designated room where the Ricos and the Bar Stars could aggregate. The room would be void of any actual equipment, since equipment is only ever used by these individuals as a prop for their posing or as camouflage for their lurking.

Hint: If you really want to pick up a guy while at the gym, at the very least stay clear of the equipment that the rest of us actually want to use. Hanging out by the water fountain may be a great alternative – you can even spray yourself with some water to make it look like you actually did something!

Wow – this was a long post, and a very cathartic one at that! Which one of these gym personalities irritates you the most? Did I overlook an obvious gym personality? Let me know in the comments section below – I’d love to hear what type of nonsense the rest of you have come across.

For more basic gym etiquette info, be sure to check out Part I and Part III in this series.

Peter Janiszewski

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No Balls (or bikes, or skateboards) Allowed

Monday, January 25, 2010 Author: Travis Saunders 0 Responses

Image by Putneypics.

An interesting story appeared in the local news late last week, when the CBC reported that two students at Ottawa's D. Roy Kennedy Public School had started a petition to be allowed to play with balls on the playground in winter time.  Why did they need a petition to play with balls on the playground???  Well it turns out that balls have been banned from D. Roy Kennedy in the winter months due to safety concerns.

From the Ottawa Citizen:

"D. Roy Kennedy principal Dana Slater says its a question of liability. “The balls get hard and they were really pegging each other. The first week of snow, it was like a M*A*S*H unit in the office,” she said Thursday. “One staff member got clocked with a basketball." 

This comes on the heels of reports that schools in both the USA and the United Kingdom have banned bicycles due to safety concerns.  Although I'm not aware of any schools in Canada that explicitly ban the use of bicycles, many ban skateboards due to fear of injury, or as with St Mary's High School in Calgary, for fear that they could be used as weapons.  Ditto for roller blades and scooters.

And while bikes may be technically allowed at most schools, that doesn't mean that their use is necessarily encouraged.  Here is the wording used by one Canadian school which publishes their student handbook online (emphasis mine):

When students bring their bicycles to school, they are responsible for them. It is impossible for school personnel to supervise bicycles, to prevent tampering, damage or theft. All bicycles should be left in the bike racks and locked with a very solid lock. It is advisable that students leave their very expensive bikes at home since most thefts have been the work of much older people with tools that cut through even the best locks.  For reasons of safety, bicycles are not to be ridden on school grounds. Again, for safety reasons, rollerblades, skateboards and scooters should not be brought to school on school days.

If you were a parent, would that paragraph make you think it's safe to let your child bike to school, given that it focuses exclusively on the risk of theft and injury? 

Child safety is obviously a very important concern, and is something that the schools are right to take seriously.  But do these rules really make kids safer in the long run?  Let's say that a child isn't allowed to skateboard to school, so he gets a drive with Mom instead.  This causes increased traffic congestion around the school, making it less safe for the kids who still commute by foot or by bike.  Don't believe me? The New York Transportation Insider reports that roughly half of all kids who are struck while walking or cycling to school are actually hit by other parents!  And of course we know that the fitness of Canadian youth has decreased dramatically over the past 30 years, a problem which will not be solved by banning our children from an ever-expanding list of physical activities (a topic which I hope to discuss in detail later this week).

It seems at times that we are creating a culture of fear around childhood physical activity, to the point that some people actually worry that children might have a heart attack if they exercise too vigorously (you would be surprised how often I've heard this concern).  I worry that the result will be a generation who are literally terrified of exercise. To wit: last year at the Bluenose Youth Run, one out-of-breath elementary school student asked my girlfriend if he was dying!  Is telling kids that physical activity is dangerous (which is exactly what we do whenever we ban an activity) really the way to ensure the health and safety of our youth?

In their recent article on the ball ban at D Roy Kennedy school here in Ottawa, the Ottawa Citizen spoke with Corrine Langill, manager of health promotion and injury prevention at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario.  Here's what she had to say:

"...when it comes to injury prevention, often the easiest thing to do is ban the activity that causes the problem.“But that creates other issues,” [Langill] said.  Sometimes, the better approach is to look at where and when injuries happen, and change other factors, such as slippery surfaces or improving supervision.“You can never eliminate risk as long as there are kids”"

Amen.  This approach of minimizing risk, rather than banning activities outright, seems like a very reasonable one.  And it seems like an approach that many schools are embracing.  For example, rather than banning or discouraging bike use, many school boards are providing students with education on ways to bike to school safely, as well as providing safe locations for bikes to be locked up on school grounds.  This way the legitimate concerns about safety and theft are dealt with, while also encouraging children to adopt healthy behaviours.  This is the approach used by On the Move To School, an extremely successful program which is in place at 75 schools throughout Quebec.   

So, what can parents and community members do to ensure that their children are allowed to engage in healthy, active lifestyles while at school?  Well an obvious first step would be to discuss the issue.  Most of the teachers and principals that I know are reasonable people, who only want the best for their students.  To her credit, Principal Slater of D. Roy Kennedy has said that parents and students are welcome to dispute the ball ban at an upcoming council meeting.  I'm sure that reasonable people can come up with a plan that both increases the opportunity for physical activity, while minimizing the risk of injuries.  This is important, and it's something that we should all take very seriously.  As Principal Slater said in one of her recent interviews:

"You have to sleep at night."

Travis Saunders



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This Week: In brief (Jan 16-23, 2009)

Saturday, January 23, 2010 Author: Travis Saunders 0 Responses


While we regularly post lengthy discussions on Obesity Panacea, there are many research updates, news stories, videos, etc. in the field of obesity, physical activity and nutrition that we come across on a daily basis that never grace the pages of the blog. Most of these mini-stories we share with our followers on Twitter, and we encourage those of you with active Twitter accounts to communicate with us there to get real-time updates of all the stuff we are discussing (Follow Peter and/or Follow Travis). For those of you who shy away from Twitter, enjoy below the best mini-stories that we came across during the prior week along with links to the original source so that you can follow the full story.

  • Ottawa public school bans balls from the playground due to injury concerns (CBC)
  • The Charlotte Observer interviews Peter about his experience at ScienceOnline2010 (Charlotte Observer)
  • Photo of the Week: Bike Centered Design in Denmark (Core77)
  • Are childhood obesity screening guidelines misguided?  (Dr Sharma's Obesity Notes)
  • Proper physical education - a simple way to prevent soccer-related knee injuries in teenaged girls?  (Archives of Internal Medicine)
  • Is the metabolic syndrome truly a syndrome? (Diabetologia)
  • Are other countries catching up to US obesity epidemic? (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)
  • Michelle Obama takes on childhood obesity (ABC News)
  • Exercise, getting together with friends, exposure to light all help winter blues (Canadian Press)
  • My weekly selections for the best Health and Clinical Research discussed on Researchblogging.org (Researchblogging.org)

Research Blogging Awards 2010Don't forget to nominate your favourite science-related website for the first ever worldwide Research Blogging Awards!  Top prize is $1000, with smaller prizes for specific topics including Health and Clinical Research.  You don't need to be a member of the ResearchBlogging community to be nominated, you just need to discuss peer-reviewed research (and you can even nominate your own blog!).  Nominations close February 11, so be sure to check it out!

Have a great weekend!

Travis Saunders

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What to Wear at the Gym: Tips on Proper Gym Etiquette Pt 1

Friday, January 22, 2010 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 15 Responses
It’s late January, and as I predicted, new year’s resolutions are in full swing at the gym. The Athletics and Recreation Centre (ARC) at Queen’s university, where I work out has become MUCH busier in comparison to attendance before the holidays. Along with all the new faces at the gym, comes the inappropriate gym etiquette and fitness faux pas being perpetrated at an annoying frequency. Thus, as a means to vent my frustration and also as a guide for those who are new to the unique social environment of a gym, I have put together a 3 part series on proper gym etiquette (be sure to check out Part II and Part III). Today’s discussion focuses on proper athletic attire. 

Proper gym attire should really a no-brainer, or one would think. When coming to exercise at a gym, some sort of athletic garb is most appropriate; running shoes, shorts and a t-shirt is an ensemble that always works well, and doesn’t attract too much attention or ridicule.

Here is a brief list of things that should and should not be worn at the gym (all of these items I have personally witnessed over the years).

Lower body:

What to wear: Shorts are a very obvious and comfortable choice, one that I stick to exclusively. Some people prefer to wear longer pants (i.e. track pants, or the uber-popular black athletic pants for females - a la LuLu Lemon style).

What not to wear:

- Jeans: not the most giving fabric. Certain exercises, such as squats or lunges may be particularly difficult to execute. Also, just in case this wasn’t abundantly obvious, combining low-rise jeans with an exposed thong string is a sure-fire way to get much (well-deserved) ridicule. (Yes I have actually seen this).

- Short-shorts: when it is the tight Spandex type shorts popular among female volleyball players, it may draw some attention from the men. If you are a female and you don’t mind male attention, or you feel that it spices up your workouts – go for it! Then again, a gym can be a bit of a meat-market so if often doesn’t matter what you wear – people will stare at you. On the other hand, if you are a male, wearing short shorts that are loose, combined with a lack of underwear, is NOT the right attire for many exercises – lunges, deadlifts, squats come to mind. In this instance, the row machine is a particularly poor choice. (I have witnessed this first hand back in highschool when a teacher did this very thing on a rowing machine and exposed himself to all the students).

Upper Body:

What to wear: T-shirts are the way to go, especially if they are made from a dry-fit or moisture wicking material that will keep you nice and dry despite sweating. Some people prefer cut off sleeves (I’m included in this category) or basketball jerseys, and many females wear athletic tank tops – all are fair game.

What not to wear:

- Layered shirts: some males feel inadequately buff and thus decide to layer their clothing to appear bigger. This really can’t be too comfortable, and unfortunately everyone can see you have 5 t-shirts on.

- Sports bras ONLY (i.e. without a t-shirt or tank top over it): Now I know many males will disagree with me on this one, but if you are a female and you’d rather not get gawked at my all the guys around you, this would also be a poor choice. On the other hand, if you are at the gym to find love rather than actually work out – best of luck to you! (BTW – the last time I saw a female wearing a sports bra, it was part of the low-rise jeans, exposed thong ensemble – no joke!)

- Dress shirts: there is a time and place for a crisp buttoned shirt – like a job interview. Alas, the gym is not that place.

Footwear:

What to wear: Any sort of athletic shoe (excluding soccer cleats, golf shoes, etc.) will do – whatever you find comfortable. If playing squash or basketball, you can get special court shoes, but otherwise a good all around running shoe will suffice for most activities.

What not to wear:

- Sandals/flip-flops: Aside from looking like an idiot, when in an area with lots of heavy objects being tossed about (especially by people with poor gym etiquette – discussed in a later post) you want your feet covered and at least somewhat protected.

- Barefoot: This is sort of like the above, but takes a special type of person to pull off.

- Workboots: Ok, so on the other extreme you have someone so worried about foot injury that they decide steel-toe work boots are the only footware appropriate for the job. While I commend you on being so concerned with safety – workboots really aren’t meant for athletic performance, not do they look reasonable with a pair of shorts.

Head gear:

What to wear: nothing…ok, maybe a headband for females with long hair. But that’s it!

What not to wear:

- Toques – unless your gym operates at sub-zero temperatures, keeping you head warm is not an issue…and of course, you risk once again looking like an idiot. (This may be a Canadian phenomenon, I’m not sure)

- Bandanas - Ok, we all know you’re tough and everything, and are potentially in a gang, but unless you are marking your turf around the squat rack, leave the bandana at home.

- Baseball caps – This one is fine. But as a personal choice, given I am guaranteed to sweat, do I really need a hat to absorb that sweat and make my head smell?

- Goggles – unless you are playing squash or doing laps in the pool, goggles are not necessary while doing bicep curls

Miscellaneous:

What to wear: Really, nothing. A towel is usually a good idea, particularly if you suffer from hyperhydrosis (excessive perspiration). Some people also like wearing weight-lifting gloves to avoid excessive callous formation on their hands. Othewise, accessories are not necessary.

What not to wear: Everything else.

Hope that helps shine some light on appropriate gym attire. As I am certain I'm not the only one who has seen ridiculous wardrobes at the gym, I'd love to hear from you in the comments section below. What is the weirdest/silliest thing you saw someone sporting at the gym?

And for more gym etiquette, be sure to check out Part II and Part III in the series.

Peter Janiszewski

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Lots of junk in your trunk: good for health?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 3 Responses


Sir Mix-A-Lot once rapped:

“I like big butts and I cannot lie; You other brothers can't deny that when a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist and a round thing in your face you get sprung!”

Not sure how often this happens, but this may be the first time that a song predicted the outcome of future scientific research.

Very recently, a review published in the International Journal of Obesity has created quite the media buzz – I even caught a joke about the study featured in the Weekend Update of Saturday Night Live.

What’s the gist of the review, and why is it so important?

In the paper, Manolopoulos and colleagues review the research documenting the now well-established ‘health protective effect’ of having lots of butt and thigh fat.

Indeed, it wasn’t long ago that I discussed the results of an original study using prospective (over-time) data from 1436 men and 1380 women showing that for a given body mass index (BMI) or waist circumference, men and women with smaller thighs had an increased risk of dying and of developing cardiovascular disease compared to those with larger thighs. (Read more here)

Back in 2008, along with Drs. Kuk and Ross, I had published a study which clearly showed that for a given amount of belly fat, having more fat in the buttocks, hips, and thighs was actually associated with a healthier metabolic profile among both men and women. (Read here to find out why this may be the case).

All this evidence is often summed up to mean that pear-shaped people have better health than apple shaped people.

The recent review making headlines simply sums up the majority of research which suggests that lower body fat may be 'protective'. However, there are two major issues with the recent review as it is presented, and maybe even more how the findings have been (mis-)interpreted by the media.

Claim #1. Having a big butt is good for you.

Well, not exactly. If you simply look at a correlation between the amount of butt fat and most metabolic outcomes, the bigger the butt, the greater the risk. This is obvious given that most people with big butts are also big elsewhere. The observation of a protective effect of butt fat usually only comes into play after we consider someone’s total fat mass or obesity level (BMI, for example). Thus, if two people have the same BMI – the one with more butt fat will tend to be healthier. The same individual will also have less abdominal fat – another reason why they may be healthier.

Claim #2. If having a big butt is good for you, then losing butt fat must be bad.

Ok, I’ve gone into this in much greater detail before (read here). Basically, one study came out and stated this was the case. But, this study had a number of flaws which confound interpretation of the results. In response, we re-did the study using better methods and more appropriate analyses and published that study in Diabetologia back in 2008. In that study, we found no evidence that losing butt fat through diet or exercise induced weight loss is associated with any harm to health. In fact, we observed that reduction in butt fat may actually be good for health – just like reducing belly fat.

Unfortunately, in this recent review of the literature, the authors missed our study. Thus, one again, the media are running around claiming that people should not lose fat from their buttocks and thighs because it may negatively affect their health. Given that you can’t spot-reduce fat, the message simply becomes – do not lose fat or you will get sick.

This is a bit unfortunate in terms of a public health message.

In the meantime, just remember you can’t believe everything you read…

Peter Janiszewski

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Manolopoulos, K., Karpe, F., & Frayn, K. (2010). Gluteofemoral body fat as a determinant of metabolic health International Journal of Obesity DOI: 10.1038/ijo.2009.286

Janiszewski, P., Kuk, J., & Ross, R. (2008). Is the reduction of lower-body subcutaneous adipose tissue associated with elevations in risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease? Diabetologia, 51 (8), 1475-1482 DOI: 10.1007/s00125-008-1058-0

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5 Steps to Starting a Walking or Running Program

Sunday, January 17, 2010 Author: Travis Saunders 0 Responses


Today's post is part two of a two-part series on how to begin a walking or running program. On Friday I discussed the questions that we are asked most frequently by friends and family members who are considering starting a new exercise program.  Today I'd like to outline 5 simple steps that can help you on your way, as well as some useful sources of additional information and guidance.  Like the FAQ's I posted Friday, these steps are not meant to be definitive, but we do think they could be very useful. Most of these steps are identical whether you want to start walking or running, so this advice applies equally to both unless otherwise noted.  And although it is not listed as a step in the list below, remember that you should always meet with a qualified health professional before starting a fitness program (for details, please see my FAQ's from Friday).

Step 1: Perform a baseline assessment.

How much walking or running do you do on a regular day right now? For the next week, write down the amount of walking you do everyday. Did you walk to the bus stop? Did you take a stroll at lunch? Did you walk your kids to school? Don’t do extra activity this week as a means of inflating your numbers – you want to get an accurate depiction of the amount of physical activity you are doing now, which will help inform your training plan.

One terrific and objective way to assess your physical activity is to purchase a pedometer. This will count the number of steps you take each day, and will be a great way to chart your progress. Pedometers vary in accuracy, but even “research quality” pedometers like the DigiWalker only cost about $30, and pedometers are easy to find at most pharmacies, electronics stores, and running shops.

Step 2: Set realistic targets.

Add up the amount of time you spent walking or running during your baseline assessment week, or calculate your average daily number of steps if you were wearing a pedometer. A reasonable goal is to increase this amount by 5-10% per week. So if you walked for about 210 minutes your first week (30 minutes/day), then aim for about 230 minutes next week. If you are going by pedometer steps, aim for an extra 1000 steps per day. The long-term goal (with emphasis being placed on long-term) is to be physically active everyday, meaning 60 minutes of physical activity (either all at once or in smaller bouts spread throughout the day), or more than 10,000 steps/day. But for now, just focus on increasing the amount of physical activity you have been doing over the past few weeks.

This might seem like a slow process – and it is. It’s is much better to start out with small, attainable increases in activity, rather than shooting for the moon only to crash and burn.

Step 3: Choose a reasonable workout schedule.

The next step is to decide how you are going to reach your new weekly targets. When do you have time to walk and/or run on a daily basis? Can you go for a family stroll after supper (kids can be pushed in a stroller, pulled in a wagon or sled, or ride alongside on their bikes)? Could you park a few blocks from work, and get a 10-minute walk at the start and end of your day? Maybe you can take a 5 minute walk-break every hour of the work-day, or fit in a 20 minute walk at lunch. What about taking public transit 2 days/week, which often involves walking at either end of the trip? Are you a morning person, who would enjoy a short walk or run before work or school? What days work best for your schedule? Which days are not realistic options for physical activity right now? These are all things worth considering while you plan your training schedule.

Remember, you want this to be realistic. I hate morning workouts, so I never count on being able to get up before work because I usually just hit the snooze button. Try to think of the ways that physical activity can be worked into your life, and consider which consequences you are willing to deal with (e.g. missing a few TV shows in the evening because you are out walking) and those that you are not willing to deal with (e.g. getting up before 7am).

If you’re having a hard time deciding how to work physical activity into your life, you might benefit from our previous post on 10 simple ways that physical activity can be incorporated into your daily life.

Step 4: Track your progress.

Now that you’re in the habit of writing down your physical activity, keep doing it! For nerds like myself, I find it can be very helpful to chart my progress in Excel. I have friends who write down their daily training in a notebook, and others who use Facebook or other online applications. The point is to keep track of what you’re doing. That way you will know what is working, and what is not. If you haven’t hit your target for the week, sit down and try to figure out what happened, and look for things that you can change in the week ahead. There will be days and weeks when you come nowhere near your targets, and that is normal and to be expected. Don’t let it throw you off. This is going to be a long process, so it’s important to expect some bumps in the road, and to develop strategies for how to deal with them.  Below I've included a graph of what you're training log might look like.




Step 5: Don’t forgot to get some rest!

In general you should build your weekly mileage for 3 consecutive weeks, then take one “down-week”, where you lower your training volume to allow your body to recover. Without adequate rest, your body will start to wear down after a few months, and so taking one easy week each month is a good way to ensure you aren’t over-training. Similarly, it’s a good idea to take off at least 1 day per week, especially once you progress to a running program.

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The steps above might not get you ready for the Boston Marathon, but they’re enough to get you started on the road to a more physically active life. What to do if you’re interested in starting a walking or running program, but you need a bit more information before you get started? Here are some more resources to help along the way:

1. Your local running or fitness store. This is where you are most likely to find people who are knowledgeable about walking and running shows, and who will be able to help you find the most appropriate gear for you. Large sports chains which are not running specific or department stores are less likely to have staff who will have the background necessary to be of much use.

Your local running store is also likely to have running and/or walking “clinics”, where you can workout with a group of people at a similar level of training. Almost every running store in Canada has such a clinic, and I imagine it is the same in the USA. At Running Room, the Walking and Running clinics both cost roughly $70 for a 10 week program, and I have many friends who have benefited from these programs (as well as friends who lead the programs themselves). Many shops also have free weekly group runs or walks, which can also be a good way to meet other like-minded individuals. These clinics are not full of hardcore runners – they are for people who are just starting a new training program, so you won’t be shunned if you have no previous running or walking experience. Be sure to ask the store which of their programs would be best for you. If I had to spend my own money on a beginner training program, a walking or running clinic is the first place I’d go.

2. The Complete Book of Beginning Running. There is only so much that we can cover in 2 blog posts. Luckily, our friend (and former winner of the Boston Marathon) Amby Burfoot of Runner’s World has put together a comprehensive book that answers just about every question you could ever want to ask prior to beginning a walking or running program. His website also has a handy training program calculator, which I recently used to help train a friend for her first marathon. If you want to start running or walking but think that a running store clinic is not for you, this book will be a very valuable resource.

3. Obesity Panacea. We love to hear from our readers, and to help out whenever we can. If you have a question, feel free to place it in the comments section below, email us (travis (at) obesitypanacea.com) or send us a note via Twitter. If we can’t help you, we probably know someone who can.

4. CSEP Certified Personal Trainers and Certified Exercise Physiologist.  These are certified health professionals who have extensive training and experience in the area of exercise and physical fitness.  For more details on who they are and how they can help you, you can visit our previous post on the topic, or contact the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology.

Good luck with your walking or running program, we'd love to hear about your experiences in the comments section below!

Travis Saunders

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This Week: In Brief (Jan 10-16, 2009)

Saturday, January 16, 2010 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 0 Responses


While we regularly post lengthy discussions on Obesity Panacea, there are many research updates, news stories, videos, etc. in the field of obesity, physical activity and nutrition that we come across on a daily basis that never grace the pages of the blog. Most of these mini-stories we share with our followers on Twitter, and we encourage those of you with active Twitter accounts to communicate with us there to get real-time updates of all the stuff we are discussing (Follow Peter and/or Follow Travis). For those of you who shy away from Twitter, enjoy below the best mini-stories that we came across during the prior week along with links to the original source so that you can follow the full story.

Since I've been on the road all week, the list is a bit shorter than normal - but no less interesting;) Let me know if during my isolation from media this week I've missed something exciting by commenting below.

- Do you drive a car, complain about poor roads, expensive parking, and simply hate those pesky pedestrians and cyclists? Then YOU are the cause of Canada’s fitness dilemma. (Dr. Sharma’s Obesity Notes)

- Group exercise gives you extra endorphins and makes exercise more fun and enjoyable. (Jockology)

- First trans-fat, then calories, then sodas. New York City has a new health initiative: reducing dietary salt. (Food Politics)

- Do rich people exercise more? (NY Times)

- And finally, a hilarious video parody of the Wii Fit game (email subscribers must log onto Obesity Panacea to view).



Have a great weekend,

Peter Janiszewski

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Starting a Running or Walking Program - FAQs

Friday, January 15, 2010 Author: Travis Saunders 0 Responses

Image by MikeBaird.

We spend a lot of time on this blog discussing the benefits of physical activity. But if you want to become more active by starting a walking or jogging program, where should you begin? This post is the first in a two-part series where we will try to give you the tools necessary to begin a new walking or running program. Today’s post will focus on some of the most frequent questions that we’ve received from people who are looking to start a new program. On Monday, we will give a series of steps that will help you get started on your new walking/running plan, and also offer some resources that we think may help you on your way. The following questions are ones that we have been asked, but the list is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to post your own questions in the comments section, and if we can’t answer them ourselves, we will do our best to find someone who can!

Question 1. I haven’t run (or walked) in years (or ever). Is it safe for me to start training?

For most people, the health risk associated with a physically inactive lifestyle is probably far greater than the risk associated with a low intensity walking program.  Nevertheless, there is risk associated with any training program. For that reason, you should meet with a qualified health professional before starting any fitness program. In this situation, I would recommend that you meet with a CSEP Certified Exercise Physiologist (CEP). A CEP is a trained health professional who is legally qualified to assess your fitness, design a training program, or refer you to a physician if it is medically warranted. For information on where you can find a CEP in your vicinity, contact the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. American readers can contact the American College of Sports Medicine, which offers certifications roughly similar to the CEP designation.

Question 2. I want a workout that is more intense than walking, but I don't enjoy running.  What do you suggest?

This is something that I have noticed a lot in my parents’, friends, and family. Many people don’t like running, and that’s fine. For a bit harder workout without running, you have a few excellent options. Cycling is one fantastic option, and one that my parents engage in almost daily in the summer months. If (like me) you live in a location that makes cycling in winter difficult, you can purchase a wind-trainer for under $150 that will allow you to turn your road bike into a stationary bike, so that you can get in your spinning workout year-round.

Another option which is becoming very popular in my friends and family above the age of 50 is Nordic Walking (aka pole walking). My girlfriend runs weekly Nordic Walking sessions here in Ottawa, and they have become surprisingly popular. You work harder than if you were simply walking since you are engaging your arms and core as you swing the poles, but it is still much less intense than running.  I used Nordic Walking as a form of cross-training during the fall, and you can definitely tell that you are working harder than regular walking, and I would heartily recommend it to anyone looking to increase the intensity of their current walking routine. A good pair of Leki poles costs about $100, and are available at most running and outdoor stores.

Question 3. I want to start a running program - is it ok to take walk breaks?

Walk breaks are an excellent option when starting out a new running program. Instead of trying to run for 30 minutes at once, you can run for 10 minutes, and then take a 1 minute walk break. If 10 minutes is too long, then try taking a break every 5 minutes, or even every 2 minutes. Also remember that you don’t need to sprint every time you go for a run (this is something I have to warn Peter against on a regular basis!). Some people like to run hard (e.g. Peter), some people like to run slow (e.g. me), so try to find the pace that is comfortable for you, and that will allow you to run for at least 2 minutes without a break. Once you can comfortably run for 2 minutes, increase the interval to 5 minutes, and eventually 10.

Question 4. What kind of results can I expect?

This obviously depends on the type of training you undertake - the greater the intensity and volume of exercise you perform, the greater the changes you are likely to see.  After 2-3 months of consistent training, you are likely to feel better first and foremost, and you may also see a small but important reduction in your waist circumference. In the short-term, you are unlikely to see dramatic changes in body weight, if any changes at all. That’s ok, because exercise is associated with tremendous health benefits even without any change in body weight. But it’s important to know that even if your body weight isn’t going down by very much, your health risk probably is.  If you maintain your lifestyle changes for an extended period of time (e.g. more than a year) you may gradually see more significant changes in your weight and body fat distribution, but exercise alone is unlikely to result in dramatic (e.g. >10-20 lbs) changes in body weight. 


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These are the questions that I've been asked most often by friends and family who are interested in starting a walking or running program, but I'm sure I've missed a lot of great questions.  If you have any questions, please share them in the comments section below.  Or, if you've recently started a walking or running program, is there a question you wish you had asked before starting?  Do you have any advice for people about to embark on a training plan of their own?  We'd love to hear from you!

Travis Saunders

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Hunt’s Manwich Sloppy Joe Sauce: A Full Serving of Veggies in ½ a Can!?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 5 Responses

“There’s a full serving of vegetables in every Manwich” says a cute girl dressed up as a Manwich in a recent commercial for Hunt’s Manwich Sloppy Joe Sauce (see below).


What? Vegetables in a Manwich? Isn’t that junk just sodium-laden tomato paste that you add to ground beef and spread over a hamburger bun to make the most disgusting homemade meal possible?

While the girl speaks this nonsense, the fine print at the bottom of the screen claims: “Each ¼ cup serving of Manwich contains a ½ cup of vegetables.”

Now, I know it has been a while since I did fractions in grade-school, but how does a half cup of veggies fit into a quarter cup of Manwich?

This type of marketing just marks the beginning of a developing trend where manufacturers of terribly unhealthy products, “fortify” or “infuse” their products with some vitamin, some bacterial culture (i.e. BL diarrheais – get it? Makes me laugh every time), or some other BS in an effort to dupe consumers into thinking they are consuming a health food.

Anyways, back to the Hunt’s Manwich Sloppy Joe Sauce.

So while the math may make little sense, the claim is: eat Manwich and you get a serving of veggies – two birds; one stone type of deal. Thus there is no need to consume actual fruit and veggies, because Hunt’s takes care of all that for you.

But what exactly is in a can of Hunt’s Manwich Sloppy Joe Sauce?

The label on the can is interesting as it lists the nutritional information per 1/7th of the can – just another reminder why it is important to read labels carefully. Once we get our calculator out we get the following per can of Manwich:

280 kcals composed almost exclusively of carbohydrates (large majority is sugar). I must admit though, the fact it has no fat and basically no protein came as a bit of a surprise. In fact there’s not a whole lot of anything in Manwhich – except an insane amount of salt.

That’s right, one can of Manwich contains 2870mg of sodium! (As a reference, it is suggested adults consume 1,500 mg or less of sodium on a daily basis). You better have some water handy – you’re going to get a tad parched!

And what are the main ingredients of Hunt’s Manwich?

“Tomato puree (water, tomato paste), high fructose corn syrup, distilled vinegar, corn syrup”

So where is the serving of vegetables? High fructose corn syrup certainly doesn’t count (Read Travis’ post on the evils of high fructose corn syrup).

Tomato paste? Well, that must have some semblance of tomato in there. Of course, for tomato paste to be the “serving of vegetables” in Manwich, you would have to agree with the culinary definition of tomato as a vegetable, rather than its botanical (and more accurate) classification as a fruit.

So there you have it: one can of Hunt’s Manwich Sloppy Joe Sauce contains a boat-load of sodium and some tomato paste. Maybe you shouldn’t do away with eating real fruit and veggies just yet.

Enjoy the video below (email subscribers must log onto Obesity Panacea to view).



Peter Janiszewski

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Should You Eat or Drink Your Fruits and Veggies? An Experiment.

Monday, January 11, 2010 Author: Travis Saunders 15 Responses


In the past year or so I've seen lots of online discussion about the nutritional value of juice, and the role that it may play in obesity and weight management.  Although there are a lot of good nutritional arguments against juice consumption, they are all a bit abstract (for a quick review of the main arguments, click here).  We can tell people again and again that orange juice is the nutritional equivalent of Coke, but when they look at at a glass of orange juice, it still looks like a glass of healthy sunshine.

I've started to realize that as good as those nutritional arguments are, they don't always overcome the emotional attachment that many people have for juice.  But recently I realized that there actually isn't that much juice in a single orange or apple.  So I started to wonder just how many oranges it takes to make the equivalent of one bottle of juice.   This led me to try a little experiment, and if you have a friend or family member who refuses to give up the "juice is healthy" mantra, this might be fun for you to try at home.

To do this experiment at home, you need a few things:
  • 1 measuring cup
  • 1 cutting board
  • 1 knife
  • 10 oranges
  • 1 bottle of orange juice

The experiment itself is pretty simple. I measured out the amount of juice in 1 bottle of orange juice (450 ml or 15.2 fluid ounces), and then saw how many oranges it took to create that volume of juice (ok, so I used the term "experiment" pretty loosely).

For anyone who is curious, here is the amount of orange juice in one organic navel orange.


Pretty pathetic, no?

So I pushed on, until I had 450 ml of juice.  In the end it took six oranges to equal one bottle of orange juice.  Here is the proof:



I'd like to point out that I juiced all those oranges by hand, which is a surprisingly good workout!

To me, this is by far the most intuitive reason to try to limit the amount of juice you consume.  You would never consider sitting down and eating 6 oranges in succession - that is obviously far more orange than anyone needs in the entire day, let alone a single sitting.  But when you drink a bottle of orange juice, that is essentially what you're doing.  You are also missing out on all the fibre that is in those oranges (even the "Lots of Pulp" style has 0 grams of fibre per serving, compared to 1.2-2.4 grams in a regular sized orange).  And last but not least, liquids are pretty much always less filling than solids.  If you want a nutritional mantra, "don't drink your calories" is a pretty good one, and that definitely includes juice.  Of course you're probably not going to cut juice completely out of your life (I certainly haven't), but keeping it in moderation, and swapping it for water whenever possible, is a good step in the right direction.

Travis Saunders

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The Week: In Brief

Saturday, January 09, 2010 Author: Travis Saunders 0 Responses


While we regularly post lengthy discussions on Obesity Panacea, there are many research updates, news stories, videos, etc. in the field of obesity, physical activity and nutrition that we come across on a daily basis that never grace the pages of the blog. Most of these mini-stories we share with our followers on Twitter, and we encourage those of you with active Twitter accounts to communicate with us there to get real-time updates of all the stuff we are discussing (Follow Peter and/or Follow Travis). For those of you who shy away from Twitter, enjoy below the best mini-stories that we came across during the prior week along with links to the original source so that you can follow the full story.

The next generation of exergaming, and it looks amazing (Youtube).

For healthy bones, fat’s good, dieting’s bad and exercise is complicated (LA Times).

How many extra calories do you need to become obese? (Dr Sharma's Obesity Notes).

ERV feels that Scienceblogs.com could use an obesity/health related blog... we couldn't agree more! (Scienceblogs.com).

How healthy are granola bars? Not very. (Fooducate).

Artificial sweeteners can't fool your brain (Sweat Science).  For a completely different take on the same topic, be sure to read this post by Dr Yoni Freedhoff of Weighty Matters.

Our friend Darya Pino takes a detailed look at Gary Taubes' new book Good Calories, Bad Calories (Summer Tomato).

SEEDmagazine.com interviews the Researchblogging.org Editors (including Travis) on the value of blogging about research, and what to expect in the year to come (SEEDmagazine.com).

Speaking of Researchblogging.org, here are Travis' Editor's Selections for the top Health and Clinical Research posts from the past week:

Have a great weekend, and to know what we're reading in real-time, be sure to follow us on twitter!



Travis Saunders

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Bicycle Computer Desk: Do It Yourself!

Friday, January 08, 2010 Author: Peter Janiszewski, PhD 10 Responses


Not that long ago, Travis discussed some of the benefits of a treadmill desk, a set-up that allows people to work at a desk while walking on a treadmill. Particularly for people who are desk bound for the majority of their workday, this quirky method can definitely help add much needed physical activity to an otherwise sedentary day.

Of course, to make use of a treadmill desk one needs a treadmill (not cheap) and a specialized desk to work with the treadmill (also not cheap). Thus, we could not have been more excited when a colleague of ours, Katya Herman, sent us pictures of a contraption she threw together to increase her level of physical activity while she works on her PhD thesis. Behold the Herman Cycling Computer Desk – a much cheaper alternative to the treadmill desk that you can build using things you probably already have at home.

Here’s what you need:

1. Bicycle – any bike will do the trick, even the one that’s been collecting dust in your garage or basement over the past decade (although, you may need a bit of oil to lubricate the rusted chain).

2. Indoor Bicycle Trainer (or wind trainer) – This nifty piece of equipment allows you to turn your mountain bike or road bike into a stationary bike that you can ride at home (especially during the winter months). The device hooks up to your rear bike wheel and allows you to pedal without accelerating into the wall. There are countless makes and models of indoor bicycle trainers. One of the cheapest I could find was the Bell Motivator Mag Indoor Bicycle for $79.99, which despite its low price had a very high customer rating. On the pricier end of things ($296.99) is the CycleOps Fluid 2 Indoor Bicycle Trainer which Travis recently purchased and is currently in love with. Personally, based on the reviews I’ve read and the fact that while I do plenty of bike riding (mainly off-road) I’ve never owned an indoor trainer, I would go for the cheaper option for the time-being. Of course, if you have a bike ergometer (or stationary exercise bike) this may be the best option.

CORRECTION: I was just informed by Katya herself that in order to make the bicycle trainer work (easily) on a mountain bike you should purchase a Rim Drive Bicycle Trainer. The one Katya uses and recommends is the Minoura RDA80 Rim Drive Bicycle Trainer (~$220). The ones I've listed above are apparently indeally used with road bikes, although CAN be configured to work with mountain bikes.

3. And finally, the special secret ingredient to the Herman Cycling Computer Desk is…..an ironing board. That’s right – the ironing board is not just for ironing your socks, as it can also double as a laptop stand. In case you don’t own one (like yours truly – really who irons anymore?) then you can purchase this archaic device online for under 40 dollars.

As pictured below, the set-up is relatively easy. First you hook your bike onto the indoor trainer. Next you rig an ironing board onto your handle bars, ensuring proper balance. Once the ironing board is more or less secure, place laptop on top of the ironing board and you can work/cycle away.


Note of caution – the current model of the Herman Cycling Computer Desk is only meant to be used with laptop computers. I think a desktop computer would be challenging to configure, and thus we’d advise against such practice. Then again, if you’re daring and inventive enough – anything is possible.

Try it ut and let us know how it goes in the comments section below!

Have a great weekend,

Peter Janiszewski

Special thanks to Katya for sending us the pics and for giving us this great idea to share with our readers.

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Reduced Sleep Means Reduced Physical Activity

Wednesday, January 06, 2010 Author: Travis Saunders 3 Responses

Image by studentofrhythm.

In the past, I have mentioned that physical activity and sleep time are positively related - the more physical activity you perform, the more sleep you are likely to get.  Now most of these past studies have been observational, so we have a bit of a chicken and egg problem. By that I mean that we don't know whether:

A) Sleep deprivation causes reductions in physical activity,
B) High levels of physical activity make people sleepier, or
C) Some combination of A & B

Fortunately, an interesting experiment has just been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which may help to untangle the cause and effect in this relationship. 

This new study was performed by Sebastian Schmid and colleagues, and I will warn you up front that the methods were a bit complicated.  I will do my best to explain them, but if you'd rather just take my word for it, skip the next paragraph.

In this study, 15 healthy young men experienced 2 conditions: 2 consecutive nights with 8 hours of sleep, or 2 consecutive nights of 4 hours of sleep.  Otherwise, both conditions were identical.  Half the men did the 4 hour condition first while half the men did the 8 hour condition first, and the two conditions were separated by at least 6 weeks for all subjects. After the first night in both conditions, the subjects were allowed to live a normal day, with the sole instructions being that they follow their usual eating habits, and avoid intense exercise.  After the second night, the subjects spent a day in a controlled laboratory setting, so that researchers could see how much food each participant ate from a series of buffets, as well as changes in appetite-related hormones.  Physical activity was directly measured using accelerometers, which is the gold-standard for measuring physical activity in this type of study.

So, what did the authors find?  Not surprisingly, physical activity was significantly lower following 4 hours of sleep as compared to 8 hours of sleep.  In addition to an overall reduction in physical activity following sleep deprivation, there was also a significant reduction in the proportion of the day spent in high intensity physical activity, and a greater proportion of the day spent in low intensity physical activity (unfortunately the amount of time engaging in sedentary behaviours is not reported, although one would assume that it increased following sleep deprivation).  Surprisingly, the authors did not find any effect of sleep deprivation on appetite-related hormones, which is in contrast with past research that has shown sleep deprivation to result in increases in both appetite-hormones and feelings of hunger.  There are of course some limitations (two that jump to mind: all subjects were healthy young men so we don't know if the findings will translate to overweight and obese individuals, and we have no idea how sleep-deprived these individuals were prior to the study) but the results are certainly interesting nonetheless.

So, what's the take-home message?

This is the first experiment to suggest that a reduction in sleep time can cause a reduction in physical activity.  This means that if you or your kids are hoping to live an active lifestyle, it's in your best interest to get a good night's sleep.  I don't think these results will shock anyone - when I'm tired, all I really want to do is sit down and relax.  It's important to remember that the amount of time watching TV, having a TV in the bedroom, and watching TV before bedtime, are all associated with sleep problems in children.  So if you want your kids to get a good night's sleep followed by plenty of physical activity, removing the TV from their bedroom is a great way to start (since screen time also predicts both caloric intake and obesity, this is really a no-brainer).  Spending less time around TV's and computers is probably a good first step for most of us adults as well.  As Peter mentioned earlier this week, the road to a healthier lifestyle usually involves many small steps, rather than drastic changes.  Getting a good night's sleep is a great way to start.

Travis Saunders

Schmid, S., Hallschmid, M., Jauch-Chara, K., Wilms, B., Benedict, C., Lehnert, H., Born, J., & Schultes, B. (2009). Short-term sleep loss decreases physical activity under free-living conditions but does not increase food intake under time-deprived laboratory conditions in healthy men American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90 (6), 1476-1482 DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.27984

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We are PhD students in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Our research focuses on the relationships between obesity, physical activity, and health risk. This blog is our attempt to consider the many "cures" for obesity that we read about on a daily basis. Enjoy.

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The opinions expressed here belong only to Peter and Travis and do not reflect the views of any organization. Any medical discussion on this page is intended to be of a general nature only. This page is not designed to give specific medical advice. If you have a medical problem you should consult your own physician for advice specific to your own situation.

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