One of the things I enjoy most about working at Cooper is the opportunity to keep learning! To that end, I try to attend as many lectures and presentations as possible, with the idea that it broadens my base of health and wellness information, and stretches my mind to learn and think about new and different ideas. (For all of us worried about dementia and Alzheimer’s, there seems to be some research that our brain, just like our other muscles is one that we need to “use or lose”!) This month, Mary Edwards, MS, fitness director and professional trainer at Cooper Fitness Center, presented the continuing education session held for the Cooper Clinic physician team.
Patients who come to Cooper Clinic are typically more physically active than the general population, so it’s not unusual for the physicians to be asked specific questions about fitness and exercise. So Mary’s presentation goal was to educate the physicians on some of the top fitness trends for 2014. As a basis for her talk, Mary referenced the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) survey completed by 3,815 health and fitness professionals worldwide. Here are some of the highlights:
High Intensity Interval Training (HITT)is the number one trend of the year. In a HITT workout, there are short bursts of high intensity work, followed by a period of recovery. The heart rate is typically at 80 to 95 percent of maximum, and the goal is to drive the heart rate quickly up, and then back down. There are all kinds of HITT programs in the marketplace – P90X (the 90-day home workout plan); Circuit Training with 10- or 15 stations that also includes cardio; CrossFit; and outdoor boot camps, are all examples that incorporate HITT.
Twenty minutes of HITT is enough time for a workout, so Mary says this exercise is great for busy people! There’s also the bonus that science shows this type of exercise helps reduce abdominal fat, an issue for many of us. The downside of HITT is that it is potentially dangerous for non-conditioned people – taking an ill-conditioned heart rapidly up and down is a recipe for disaster, so you should discuss your interest in this type of exercise program with your doctor before diving in.
Number two on the list is Body Weight Training. Exactly like it sounds, body weight training requires little (if any) equipment and is strength training that can be done anywhere. In addition to squats, lunges, push-ups, and the like, modern day body weight training typically includes core conditioning – where there’s a focus on strengthening the “core” or trunk of our body. Total Resistance Exercise (TRX) classes, which use a suspension system for exercise, are an example of a popular body weight training program. Mary provided the factoid that TRX classes were started by a U.S. Navy SEAL who wanted to stay fit in a small, confined space, so he sewed together pieces of parachute material and made straps (which he suspended) for exercise. The exerciser uses their body weight and the suspended straps for an all-over body workout. Initially called “suspension training”, the former Navy SEAL came home and built the TRX business on this initial concept.
Mary reported that many outdoor boot camps focus on body weight training, with potentially the addition of terrain, and/or a few pieces of equipment. Boot camp classes cover the gamut – everything from “Mommy & Me” classes to military-style classes where participants use sandbags, truck tires and logs as their exercise equipment!Another general trend is Strength Training. Mary reports that strength training has been popular since the first ACSM survey in 2007, and that this exercise is appropriate for all ages and athletic and/or conditioned ability. In traditional strength training, exercisers use their body weight plus all kinds of toys – dumbbells, kettle bells, TRX, Sandbells and ViPR equipment. Sandbells are neoprene discs filled with sand that can be used as one would typically use a free weight, but they can also be thrown, caught, slammed and gripped. ViPR, which stands for Vitality, Performance and Reconditioning, is a weighted rubber tube with built-in handholds that looks much like an oversized “pool noodle,” and is used to perform task-oriented movement patterning – for example, scooping the ViPR across and up and over the body, or potentially holding the ViPR to do a squat and then overhead raise. Watch video demonstrations from our trainers with the Sandbells and ViPR equipment. Mary also told us about how kettle bells, a weighted metal device that looks like a small purse (with handle) to me, were created in Russia back in the 1700s!
With the numbers of aging baby boomers it’s no surprise that Fitness Programs for Older Adults is another trend. In addition to balance, yoga, Pilates and resistance training (AKA strength training), fitness programs for older adults also purposefully include “brain fitness” exercises, that focus on coordinated movements. So, for example, I might hold the ViPR in front of me and do a Romanian deadlift (RDL) combined with an overhead raise and a leg raise when I do the overhead raise. If my description sounds complicated, I think that’s the point – the idea is that the exerciser really has to focus and think about what they’re doing!
Good fitness programs for older adults also incorporate lots of functional exercises, designed specifically to help us prevent from turning a “trip” into a “fall”, or building muscle strength so if we’re down on the ground we can get back up. So, it’s not a surprise that Functional Fitness was another big trend. Mary shared how the trainers at Cooper Fitness Center have been focusing on functional fitness for years – the whole focus of conditioning in the gym is to support a great life outside the gym!The economy is likely influencing the trend towards Group Personal Training. Like it sounds, two to four people share a trainer and work out together in group personal training. Larger than one-on-one personal training, but much smaller than a traditional group exercise class, group personal training allows the exercisers to have interaction and glean support from one another, but also reduces the cost of personal training. Here at Cooper, we launched Small Group Training in February, 2014. Professional Fitness Trainers conduct the classes, and are adept at customizing exercises based on specific injuries, limitations or disability. Mary reports that Small Group Training is perfect for those who are cost-conscious as well as anyone seeking the camaraderie and support of a group. Small Group Training allows for more personalized service than in a larger traditional group exercise and many of the sessions are targeted to specific exercise goals, be it weight loss, or being lean and toned for skinny jeans!
Mary mentioned that Yoga, another trend for 2014, is part of a 7 billion dollar mind/body business segment! Some classes are technically difficult, while others focus more on the breathing and relaxing, meditative aspects of the practice. The most popular type of yoga in the United States is Iyengar, where individual poses are held.
Mary talked too, about how the fitness industry continues to evolve, with more and more focus being put on certifications and credentials. At Cooper Fitness Center, Professional Fitness Trainers hold a college degree in an exercise related field and have a minimum of two years’ work experience in addition to industry certifications. (Many of the trainers also have graduate degrees.) When the gym adds a new member, the on-boarding process includes a physician supervised exercise Treadmill Stress Test at Cooper Clinic. From there, a Professional Fitness Trainer conducts a functional movement screening developed by Gray Cook of seven tests to assess movement of the body. The seven tests are squatting, stepping, lunging, reaching, leg raising, push-up and rotary stability. Each movement is scored between zero and three points. A zero is assessed if the movement causes pain, and a three is assessed if the person performs the movement perfectly. Anyone with pain gets immediately referred out to a medical specialist for treatment before continuing any exercise. The research shows that a score under 14 is a prediction of injury if the person just jumps into exercise, without undergoing corrective work first. Gray Cook, the founder, says “first move better, then move often.”
The old advice “don’t start an exercise program without first seeing your physician” is still good advice, and all the more important if you’re committed to re-engaging aggressively with physical activity.