Saturday, September 27, 2014

Effects of Upper Arm Ergometry in Stroke Victims

The incidence of cerebrovascular accident (stroke) can disable many functions of the body including brain function, speech, and neuromuscular function. Some common and severe effects of stroke include muscular weakness and muscular spasticity. Stroke induced disabilities often lead to a much more sedentary way of life than pre-stroke lifestyles due to losses in motor function. Recent studies have discovered that motor recovery after stroke is based on a cyclical, dynamic framework of interacting mechanisms in the brain cortex.1  In some cases, individuals post-stroke sequelae are unable to use cardio equipment which primarily activate the joints of the lower extremities. To maintain cardiovascular fitness the “Top” allows cycling activities using the upper body.There are many methods of stroke rehabilitation. he Laboratory for Wellness and Motor Behavior at Tarleton State University houses one method rather unique in its methodology. Designed by Technogym, the
Excite (Top) is a low impact cyclic upper body ergometer designed for varied use in gym, therapy and rehabilitation settings.
The Top uses both arms in unison, stimulating both left and right hemispheres of the brain. Due to the effects of stroke, many victims are left with hemiplegia (paralysis on one side of the body). Research has suggested that “unaffected arm exercise can stimulate the ipsilateral motor cortex and change the affected upper limb function and spasticity in stroke patients.”1 Through the technology and efficiency of the (Top), individuals are able to assess and track each individual's workout session. Some benefits provided by the Top include cardiovascular exercise, variation for increased calorie expenditure, correct warm-up, improved posture, prevention of  elbow and shoulder problems, and effective  rehabilitation of upper limbs. The (Top) will function for any individual, incorporating different muscle groups in either a seated or standing position . With cyclic strength or resistance exercises without sudden change of direction, the (Top) can tremendously reduce recovery times and return to optimal functionality.2
The (Top) is modifiable to any body position or range of motion making it a perfect combination for stroke victims with limited capacity in these areas. Combined with adaptable resistance, speed and rotation distance, the (Top) can provide consistent and considerable benefits for individuals through cardiovascular training, weight loss, toning, hypertrophy, strength, power, speed and rehabilitation.2               

1 Sakamoto, K., Nakamura, T., Uenishi, H., Umemoto, Y., Arakawa, H., Abo, M., ... Tajima, F.
(2014). Immediate Effects of Unaffected Arm Exercise in Poststroke Patients with Spastic Upper Limb Hemiparesis. Cerebrovascular Diseases, 123-127.

2 Excite Top complete Upper Body Trainer. (n.d.). Guide to USe and Benefits. Retrieved
September 20, 2014.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Avoiding Germs at the Gym

Avoiding Germs at the Gym

The gym is not only a place where individuals go to become healthier, it is also a place where many thriving germs reside and can cause colds and infections. The last thing you want when taking steps to a healthier lifestyle is attracting a virus from your gym. There are ways to avoid those germs and reduce the risk of coming down with any infections or sickness.

Germs are able to survive on surfaces from one minute to months at a time. Dumbbells, free weight benches, cardio machines, and locker rooms are where the viruses are concentrated more heavily. One study reported  that 63% of the gym equipment was covered with rhino virus which is the cause of the common cold1. Some of the most common bacterias that lurk in the gym are E.coli, MRSA (known as staph), HPV, Influenza, and Streptococcal bacteria. So how do you protect yourself from harmful bacteria, fungus, and viruses?

Make sure to spray it down thoroughly before and after using a machine. Most gyms have disinfectant available throughout the day. Be sure to let it sit for a couple of minutes before wiping it off with a towel. It is vital that you avoid touching your face or rubbing your eyes while in contact with equipment. Cover any cuts or lesions with bandages that will guard against germs and other infections. Upon leaving the gym wash your hands with soap and water or with hand sanitizer if available. Showering immediately after a workout is important  and decreases the chances of coming down with any infections. The benefits you receive from exercising exceed the risks, so just be cautious, follow the preventions, and continue living that healthy lifestyle!

1Schwecherl, L. (2001, December 28). Are Germs at the Gym Making You Sick? Retrieved September 20, 2014, from

2Johnson, T. (2011, August 1). Stay healthy and infection-free at the gym. Retrieved September 20, 2014, from

Exercise and Benefits of Sex

Deion Sanders once said, “If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you play good. If you play good, they pay good.” Now Deion was referring to professional football, but this can also be applied to sex and exercise in general.  An improved body image can increase sex drive and motivation and being more comfortable with your body leads to improved sexual performance and relaxation. A 2004 study at The University of Arkansas verified that more physically fit men and women rated their own sexual desirability higher than less active men and women the same age. This study also  demonstrated that 80% of males and 60% of females who exercised two to three times a week, rated their own sexual desirability as above average.1
A healthy sex life should be a beneficial concern for every individual wanting to live a long and happy life. By exercising and creating a better sex life, more benefits can be added to your health. Arousal and orgasms release the hormone oxytocin and decrease cortisol, shutting down areas of the brain linked to stress, fear and anxiety.2 The day after a good night’s sleep, people have more energy and the passion to do things with the people in their life. With better sleep, the body is able to fight off diseases and things like headaches and body aches and pains are lessened.
As for living longer, a study of 29,000 men found that those who had more sex than those who had less than 7 times a month,developed prostate cancer much less.2
Circulation issues are what tend to lead to erectile dysfunction (ED) in men. Exercise and increased cardiovascular health improves erections and the frequency of erections. After exercise endorphins are released which make people feel good and have a sense of accomplishment, much like the feeling after sex. A better body means a better sex life.


  1. Stibich, Ph.D., M. (2014, May 22). Exercise Makes Sex Better. Retrieved September 21, 2014, from
  2. Spencer Scott, P. (2014, August 25). 7 Reasons to Have More Sex After 50. Retrieved September 21, 2014, from

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Childhood Obesity

Childhood obesity is on the rise in America. As adults, it is our responsibility to become educate on how to prevent it. The number of overweight children in the United States has increased dramatically in recent years. Approximately 10 percent of 4 and 5-year-old children are overweight, double that of 20 years ago.2 There are so many ways to prevent childhood obesity from happening. To all the parents and/or guardians, it starts with you!

One way to prevent childhood obesity is proper nutrition. Give your children healthy meals and snacks everyday. This will give them the nutrients they need for a healthy, growing body. Kids do not know what's good for their bodies, they just know that the cheeseburger from McDonalds tastes good.  As parents you should also educate your children about nutrition. Nutrition education helps young children develop an awareness of what good nutrition is and healthy eating habits for a lifetime.2 One important thing you should teach you kids is portion control. It helps to prevent overeating. There is a website called that is great for learning about proper portion sizes, daily food plans,healthy eating on a budget, as well as nutritional tips. By giving them healthy foods at a young age and teaching them basic nutritional information, children will develop proper eating behaviors and be able to recognize and choose foods that feed their body, not harm it.

In addition to proper nutrition, exercise is essential in preventing childhood obesity. Get outside and get active. All children age two and older should participate in at least 30 minutes of enjoyable, moderate-intensity physical activities every day.1 Doing physical activities helps with weight management and reduces future health risks. Make these activities fun. Some kids hear  exercise and shut down and want to go inside and play video games. A tip for this would be to  just say we have some activities we are going to go do. Do it as a family and have a variety of activities (shooting hoops, bike riding, walking together, etc.) so you can figure out what interests your kids. T.V., computer, and videogame time should be limited. It is recommended that there be no more than two hours of daily media exposure for children ages two and older.1 Limiting the amount of time kids are on electronics gives them more time to be active and outside.

These are just a few things that parents and/or guardians can use to get their kids eating right and physically active. This will not only help the parents but the kids as well, they will grow up with the right mind set and have the right eating habits.

1Motivating Kids to Get Fit. (n.d.). Retrieved September 22, 2014, from

2Preventing Childhood Obesity: Tips for Parents. (2012, June 1). Retrieved September 22, 2014, from

Agility and Basketball Positions

Basketball is a sport that was created over a century ago in North America. Since then, it has gained popularity and spread to every inhabited continent. While watching a game of basketball, a spectator can enjoy an amazing display of human abilities that allow players to shoot a ball over 23 feet for three points with great accuracy, drive the lane for a layup while bouncing it off the glass and falling out of bounds behind the backboard, and elevate to a height great enough to personally place the ball through the orange hoop with both hands striking the rim and leaving it vibrating.

Talents in basketball vary greatly between players, but a team comes together with five players on the court that specialize in making a basket and guarding their own basket. It has been suggest that players’ physiological characteristics differ according to their position played.1 Players can be categorized into guards, forwards, and centers, each having their own specialty, play style, and game duties. With the varying aspects of the game to which each position is required to excel, reason would point to the different positions being skilled in different areas.

The successful and efficient execution of sprints, abrupt stops, quick changes of movement direction, acceleration, different vertical jumps, fast dribbling, and different shots and passes depend on several motor abilities, one of which is agility.2 Physical fitness is a big determinant of playing time, but more specifically agility, in NCAA Division I basketball players.5

If agility is as important as studies have shown, what are some ways in which coaches or strength coaches can measure agility? Common speed and agility tests are T-test, Zigzag Agility Drill, Agility Run 4 x 15 meters, Long Jump distance, Three Bounds Jump, Shark Time, Speed Get-up, Unconstrained Lunge, Three Minute Celtic Run, Lane Agility Drill, and 505 Agility Test.3,4,6 One assessment not widely used or common in the literature is the JJ Shuttle.

According to the creators of the agility test, the JJ Shuttle requires both anaerobic and aerobic energy sources because of the longer, 60-yard, 4 segment aspect of the run.5 This test may be beneficial to determine how a player’s agility, speed, and acceleration differ between the three playing positions. However, further studies will be needed to determine so.

1 Delextrat, A., & Cohen, D. (2009). Strength, power, speed, and agility of women basketball players according to playing position. Journal of Strength and conditioning Research, 23(7), 1974-1981.

2 Erčulj, F., Blas, M., Čoh, M., & Bračič, M. (2009). Differences in motor abilities of various types of european young elite female basketball players. Kinesiology, 41(2), 203-211.

3 Jakovljevic, S. T., Karalejic, M. S., Pajic, Z. B., Macura, M. M., & Erculj, F. F. (2012). Speed and agility of 12- and 14-year-old elite male basketball players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 26(9), 2453-2459.

4 McGill, S. M., Anderson, J. T., & Horne, A. D. (2012). Predicting performance and injury resilience from movement quality and fitness scores in a basketball team over 2 years. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 26(7), 1731-1739.

5 Priest, J. W., Jones, J. N., Conger, B., & Marble, D. K. (2011). Performance measures of NCAA baseball tryouts obtained from the new 60-yd run-shuttle. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 25(10), 2872-2878.

6 Scanlan, A., Humphries, B., Tucker, P. S., & Dalbo, V. (2013). The influence of physical and cognitive factors on reactive agility performance in men basketball players. Journal of Sports Science, 32(4), 367-374.

Maintain a Healthy Diet, Even with the Pregnancy Cravings

There is no better time than during pregnancy to maintain a healthy diet. Everything a woman eats is directly linked to her baby’s growth and development. It is very important for a woman to provide all the proper nutrients her baby needs, and it is something that can definitely be accomplished.

How do I ignore the unhealthy “cravings” pregnancy brings?

Typically, women most commonly crave these five types of cravings: Sweet, Meaty, Salty/Savory, Spicy, and Thirst-Quenching.1 When these cravings come about, it is important to balance them, especially the less healthy. It is important to find healthy recipes that satisfy these cravings. When craving something sweet, result to fruit. Stick to lean meats and whole grains, also when craving salty/spicy make sure to stick to the recommended daily limit of 2300 mg of sodium.1 When a woman is craving something unhealthy, it is important to control portion size. More importantly, try to add something healthy to balance out that craving so your baby is still getting the nutrients he/she needs to be healthy. Also, it is important to avoid eating directly from the package or else portion control goes out the window.

How many extra calories does my baby need?

“Eating for Two” does not give a woman the entitlement to double her calories consumed in a day. In fact, no extra calories are even needed in the first trimester. About 300 extra calories are needed in the second trimester, and 450 extra calories in the third and final trimester.2 Pregnancy is not a time to diet to lose weight. It is important and healthy to gain weight during pregnancy, typically around 25 to 35 lbs for women who were a normal weight prior to pregnancy.2 This weight gain should be gained gradually. It is normal to gain between only one to five lbs in the first trimester. In the second and third trimesters, it is typical to gain about a pound per week.2

So when the cravings come, remember the importance of feeding your baby the nutrients he needs. Although it is OK to give in on occasion, try to find the healthy side to your cravings!

1Largeman-Ruth, F. (2014, April 1). Should I give in to my pregnancy food cravings? Retrieved September 21, 2014, from

2BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board. (2013, February 1). Pregnancy weight gain: What to expect. Retrieved September 21, 2014, from

Exercise and Nutrition Myth Busters: Carbohydrate Loading for Performance

Carbohydrate loading is a frequently used term when you are involved in competition or long distance races. It involves the storing of carbs (CHO), the body’s primary high energy fuel source, into your body  right before a competition. Is it an advantageous strategy? Is it for all athletes? Finally, what is the proper way to go about executing the process?
The whole process is based on the fact that 1“when the body runs out of its carbohydrate stores (about 2,400 to 3,000 calories) and relies on mostly fat for energy, physical performance declines dramatically.”
This the reason why low-carb diets are getting such a bad reputation lately. Glycogen stores in the blood, 1“which are an easy energy source for the body, come from CHO. However, very little glycogen is found in food.” The body also has a small storage for glycogen, which is why you need a 1“constant supply of CHO throughout the day.”

This type of strategy is used primarily for athletes who trying to avoid hitting the wall in endurance based events such as marathon runners, and even body builders who like that their muscles are more hypertrophied due to the excess water from the process. 2“For in long distance races, you burn both glycogen and fat. But the latter is not as efficient.” In the end, the body has to work much harder to convert fat to energy compared to glycogen.

How should an endurance athlete go about doing this? What you should not do is try to carb-load in one meal, the night before the race. It takes time to raise your body’s glycogen stores. The process usually starts about one week before the competition. In the 1980s, Sherman and Costill showed that similar glycogen loading results can be accomplished using a modified/exercise regimen. 1“About 6 days prior to competition, the athlete gradually tapers exercise. The reason being, that you don’t want to burn your storage through training. During the first 3 days, a normal diet is consumed, about 55-60% of total daily calories from CHO. Then, for the final 3 days a diet consisting of 70% total daily calories from CHO (20% from fat and 10% protein) is consumed.” 2“To be more precise, dietary CHO during the final 3 days should exceed 8 of your body mass.” This method 2“has known to increase muscle glycogen stores, and stamina in events lasting longer than 90 minutes.”

So there is such a thing as carbohydrate loading, and it does help certain long distance athletes, and those looking to bulk. However, it is more involved than a bowl full of spaghetti the night before the big race, contrary to what most people believe. There is a process, and if done correctly, can be beneficial to the longevity of your performance.

1)Gastelu, D., & Hatfield, F. (2013). Carbohydrates and the Athlete: The Ultimate Performance Fuel. In
Sports Nutrition (Third ed., pp. 28-38). Carpinteria, CA 93013: International Sports Sciences Association.

2)Sedlock, D. (2008). The latest on carbohydrate loading: A practical approach. Current Sports
Medicine Reports, 7(4), 209-213. Retrieved September 21, 2014, from

Friday, September 19, 2014

Stubborn Belly Fat, Muffin Top & Fat Loss Myths

The “love handles” or now commonly known as the “Muffin Top”, is the area of fat above a person’s midsection that spills over the waistline. The problem is that our nation’s population is so conscious about their figure and that fat loss will always be an issue. Exercise plays an important role when dealing with losing weight, but there are two common misconceptions regarding the loss of fat.
Where many people go wrong is  believing they can spot reduce fat. By believing in this concept, they spent countless hours at the gym doing oblique twists, side bends, and crunches thinking they will soon burn off that stubborn jiggle around their waist. According to a study published in Yale Scientific Magazine, spot reducing fat is a myth and false hope people still believe in.1  In this study led by the University of Connecticut, 104 participants completed a twelve-week supervised resistance-training program in which their non-dominant arm was selectively exercised. MRI assessments of subcutaneous fat before and after the program revealed that fat loss tended to be generalized, rather than only occurring in the trained arm.
Another common misconception is that the general population thinks that they can workout to turn their fat into muscle.2 Fat and muscle tissue are two separate and different things and cannot transform into one another. Getting “toned” usually means that someone wants to build muscle AND lose fat. So when someone says they want to “tone up”, they actually mean either building muscle or losing fat to uncover muscle, plain and simple.

1. Perry, E. (2011, April 3). Targeted Fat Loss: Myth or Reality? Retrieved September 14, 2014, from

2. Bowerman, S. (2011, August 18). Top 5 myths about body fat. Retrieved September 14, 2014, from

Group X Classes

With people's busy schedules, they tend to put working out on the back burner. Group exercise or group x, gives women and men the opportunity to take a small portion of their day to get an intense workout. Group x is typically described as exercise performed by a group of individuals led by an instructor.

There are several benefits of participating in group x classes, both physical and social. First, they are led by certified instructors who are responsible for designing the components, as well as the intensity, of the workouts.1 This helps ensure each class is appropriately designed to improve cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness.1 However, you don’t have to do any heavy weight lifting that is strenuous to your body, most classes use body weight. Second, there are a variety of classes that meet any and every ones needs (e.g. kickboxing, Zumba, Yoga, etc.). You don’t have to just pick one and stick to it, you can switch it up and go to a different one each time. This variety keeps you motivated, interested and you will never get bored; “a common reason given for quitting an exercise program [can be] boredom.”1 These classes provide not only health benefits, but social as well. You get to go work out with friends and even meet new people that relate to you. “Working out with friends can be fun and being seen may give you motivation to show up for future classes.”2 Participation can help  you build your confidence. Some people don't like working out in the weight room area because they feel like people will look at and judge them. Attending these classes can help you get to a target weight and boost your confidence so that you will want to go and work out in the weight room area. You may feel like you don't know where to start or what you should be doing. That's the great thing about group x, you don't have to prepare or do anything but show up for class.
1Dolan, S. (2012, January 20). ACSM | Articles. Retrieved September 14, 2014, from
2Matz, J. (2013, August 19). Social Sweating: The Benefits of Group Fitness. Retrieved September 14, 2014, from

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Is Resistance Training Harmful for our Youth?

Is resistance training suitable, beneficial, and safe for adolescents and children? Many believe that resistance training is not recommended for children because of injuries and growth abnormalities that can be sustained. But let’s put this myth to rest and reveal how resistance training can improve a child’s overall health and lifestyle.

Various studies have shown that with strict supervision,correct technique and form, and a well structured program, age appropriate training can provide benefits at any age. Resistance training can increase strength and bone mineral density, promote healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, help maintain proper weight, and improve mental health. The benefits of muscular strength that the children receive from resistance training generally involve neurological changes and more efficient interactions between nervous systems and muscles. Strength training, in moderation, will not have an adverse effect on growth. Training may actually be an effective stimulus for growth and bone mineralization by putting a positive forces across the growth plates that improves their stress tolerance (Schwager 2010).

Keep in mind that, with children, there are guidelines that should be followed in order to achieve the benefits. You should stray away from any ballistic movements Exercises should be performed slowly with control and full range of motions. Avoid any time on machines and use bodyweight exercises such as planks, pushups, situps, etc. Aside from training, always remember to keep it fun and safe and all of the benefits will fall into place!

1Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness. (2008). StrengthTraining by Children and Adolescents, 121(4), 835-840.

2Schwager, T. (2010). American fitness. Strength Training for Kids, 28(5), 20-22

Health-Related Fitness Components Pt. 1

If a person were asked to consider himself or herself to be physically fit what criteria would be used to answer the question? To answer, he or she would first have to decide what it means to be physically fit. Physical fitness is defined as a set of attributes or characteristics individuals have or achieve that relates to their ability to perform physical activity.1 According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), these characteristics are broken up into five health-related fitness components and 6 skill-related fitness components.  Due to the strong relationship between physical fitness and health-related fitness components, the main focus of this blog series will be on the health-related components.

The five health-related fitness components include cardiorespiratory endurance, body composition, muscular strength, muscular endurance and flexibility with the focus today being on cardiorespiratory endurance.  Cardiorespiratory endurance is related to the ability to perform large muscle, dynamic, moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise for prolonged periods of time.1 This is considered to be one of the health-related fitness components of physical fitness because increased levels of cardiorespiratory endurance have been shown to decrease the risk of death from all causes and specifically from cardiovascular disease.  High levels of cardiorespiratory endurance are also associated with higher levels of habitual physical activity.

The ACSM and the American Heart Association recommend that all healthy adults aged 18-65 years old should participate in moderate intensity, aerobic activity for a minimum of 30 minutes 5 days a week or vigorous aerobic activity for a minimum of 20 minutes 3 days a week.  Examples of moderate intensity activities include walking at 3-4mph, sweeping floors, mowing the lawn (push mower), shooting a basketball, ballroom dancing, and recreational volleyball to name a few.  Vigorous activities include walking at a pace of 4.5mph or faster, jogging at a pace of 5mph, running at a pace of 7mph, playing a basketball game, cycling at 12-16mph leisure swimming or a casual soccer game.1 Improving ones fitness in this area can lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, increase life span, reduce risk of Type 2 diabetes, raise self-esteem, increase bone density, reduce body fat, improve sleep and along with many other benefits.2 Below, is a table that shows how people between the ages of 20-39 would rank in maximal aerobic power based age and gender according to ACSM guidelines.3

1. Pescatello, L. (2014). ACSM's guidelines for exercise testing and prescription (9th ed., p. 2,72,88,91). Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Health.
2. Cardiorespiratory Fitness & Energy Systems. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2014, from

Strength Training, Gait Performance, and Stroke Survivors

A patient working on his gait performance.
With this growing special population of stroke survivors, the allied health community is striving to help restore something that has been lost. Hemiparesis is one of the many side effects that stroke survivors may experience. It causes motor control impairment, to some degree, that is a result of weakness or the inability to move one side of the body.3 Depending on the severity of the survivor’s case, it can make it difficult to perform daily tasks such as holding or grasping things, reaching above their shoulder, extending their arm, stepping up or down, and even walking on flat surfaces. Regaining the motor function to perform these daily tasks should be a goal for every stroke survivor. One aspect in particular of hemiparesis is that gait performance varies depending on the severity of the hemiplegia. However, studies have shown gait performance can be improved through strength training.

According to Cramp et al., strength of the hip flexor, knee extensor, and ankle plantarflexor muscles have been shown to have a moderate to strong correlation with gait velocity.2  Studies have shown that strength of the muscle groups have been significantly improved in stroke survivors after strength training programs.1,2 Therefore, it is valid to assume that lower limb strength training should be included in exercise training for stroke survivors with hemiplegia. If muscular strength improves, it is quite possible that the gait velocity will improve as a result.

In a study conducted by Cramp et al., a significant increase in muscular strength in the paretic limb was seen from the baseline to after eight training sessions and continued to increase with more training sessions.2 They observed that both the muscular strength of the knee extensors and the gait velocity increased significantly.2 Badics et al. found that muscular strength increased significantly in all patients and this increase was positively correlated with the intensity and number of exercising sessions.1

Several studies have highlighted the benefits and improvements from strength training for stroke survivors suffering from hemiplegia, but are there any negative side effects? In a study by Badics et al. that had 56 patients, no negative side effects on muscle tone, or complications such as joint pain were found.1 In fact, it is even reported that some patients, despite having years between their stroke event and the training program, improved muscle strength and gained empowerment for activities of daily living.1
Interested in learning more about current exercise prescriptions for stroke survivors? Check out my blog here.
1 Badics, E., Wittmann, A., Rupp, M., Stabuer, B., & Zifko, U. (2002). Systematic muscle building exercises in the rehabilitation of stroke patients. NeuroRehabilitation, 17(3), 211-214.
2 Cramp, M., Greenwood, R., Gill, M., Rothwell, J., & Scott, O. (2006). Low intensity strength training for ambulatory stroke patients. Disability & Rehabilitation, 28(13-14), 883-889.

3 Effects of stroke. (2012). Retrieved September 14, 2014, from