SmokersFitness.com

An essential health resource for current and former smokers

SmokersFitness.com - An essential health resource for current and former smokers

A lifetime of bad choices condensed into less than two minutes

Most of us know that smoking, eating junk food, and avoiding physical activity are all bad for our health. The problem is that each individual cigarette, cookie, or hour on the couch watching TV causes very limited damage – so much so that we barely think about it.

How many of you plan to quit smoking at some future point? How many of you plan to join the gym in the near future? How many of you plan to start a healthy diet next week, after your birthday? We often have some vague future notion of cleaning up our act. However, because we don’t experience the damage being caused to our body at the present time, we often procrastinate or avoid making any changes.

Even when we do try, we often quit too soon; we only see infinitesimal benefits from one day to the next for the maximal effort that we’re exerting, and we feel discouraged. How many of you have quit the gym or returned to a junky diet because the weight loss slowed down drastically? How many of you returned to smoking because you were feeling stressed out and irritable after quitting? I know, I know. There’s always next year.

Rewind the Future

I recently came across a brilliant video entitled “Rewind the Future.” Put out by a group targeting childhood obesity, the video starts off with an obese 32 year old man in the hospital in the midst of a heart attack, and works its way back through his life, showing clips of poor choices such as eating fast food, etc all the way back to when he was a baby being fed french fries by his mother to keep him quiet.

Although the main point of this powerful presentation is to show parents how the poor food choices that they make for their kids leads them to be unhealthy adults, I believe that we can apply this video to other poor choices that we make.

Imagine for a minute, a future you lying on the operating table about to have a large cancerous mass removed from your lungs. Now rewind back through the years to different mental images of you smoking all the way back to that first cigarette.

Similarly, if poor food choices, lack of exercise, or obesity are your main issues, then you can pretty much use the imagery from the video, substituting a future you for the actor.

This video allows us to visualize the ultimate consequences of our poor habits, something that as I mentioned above, is hard to do in the here and now.

- Tamir

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Even a little exercise counts

As any of you who have read our book and follow our blog know, we heavily push exercise as one of the best ways to stay healthy. However, the reality is that we’re often short on time and/or lazy. Even though 150+ minutes of moderate intensity exercise is what’s recommended, many of us unfortunately don’t even come close to that.

Well, I have some good news for those of you who fit into that category. A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology shows that as little as 5-10 minutes a day of running had tremendous health benefits, reducing the risk of death from heart disease by nearly half and from any cause by 30%. This translated to an extra 3 years of life. The study looked at data from over 55,000 adults ages 18-100 of which about a quarter were runners, and compared their health and longevity to non-runners.

What was even more amazing was that running more than 51 minutes a week did not seem to add any additional health benefits, and that the running didn’t have to be at a very fast pace (even less than 6 miles an hour showed benefit).

The take home message is that for a very small investment in time and effort (5-10 minutes a day, which even the busiest people have), people can achieve a remarkable reduction in heart disease and overall mortality.

Whether other forms of exercise when performed briefly have the same benefits is unknown at this time; however, there’s no reason to believe that there would be no improvements in health. Nevertheless, if possible, it seems that incorporating some running into your overall fitness routine may be a good idea.

Obviously, if you haven’t exervised before (or ever) or are otherwise in poor shape or have health issues, then start with walking, and speak to your physician before embarking on a more strenuous routine.

- Tamir

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A link between cycling and prostate cancer?

In our book and blog – we heavily promote exercise as one of the best ways (along with a healthy diet and quitting smoking) to prevent many different diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, strokes, and certain cancers in addition to improving quality of life and increasing life expectancy.

However, we mention that often doing just one type of exercise, or exercising too much (e.g. marathon running) can at times lead to injury and in the case of doing too much can actually damage the heart and weaken the immune system.

Military cyclists in pace line.jpg

A recent study published in the Journal of Men’s Health shows a correlation between too much cycling and a risk of developing prostate cancer in men over 50. Data from over 5,000 men was analyzed; those who cycled more than 8.5 hours a week were over 6 times likely to report having prostate cancer. Those who cycled over 3.75 hours but less than 8.5 hours a week had an almost 3 fold increase.

The design of this study is such that it doesn’t per se prove that excessive cycling causes prostate cancer. For example, it’s possible that men who cycle more end up having more urological complaints stemming from sitting on a hard narrow seat for too long which leads to medical investigations that uncover cancer. However, the study did show that cyclists were no more likely to contact their primary care physicians than those who did not cycle. Furthermore, excessive cycling has been previously linked to testicular cancer as well as prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate), so that it’s at least plausible that the repeated trauma to the region of the prostate that happens during long bouts of cycling can lead to the development of prostate cancer.

The bottom line is that for now, it isn’t known for sure if too much cycling does cause prostate cancer. However, since it’s possible, and given that the magnitude of the potential harm (over a 6 fold increase in those that cycled the most) is huge, it probably is a good idea to cycle less than 3.5 hours a week and otherwise vary your workouts by incorporating other types of exercise.

- Tamir

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Sitting and the risk of cancer

In past blog posts, we’ve discussed the increased risks of heart attacks and strokes that result from sitting too much. Well, there’s more bad news. Those who sit the most, especially while watching television, are at an increased risk of several different cancers as well.

A large study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute looked at data from dozens of studies investigating correlations between sedentary behaviors and cancer. The authors found that people who were most sedentary had a 24% higher risk of developing colon cancer, a 32% higher risk of endometrial cancer (cancer of the womb), and a 21% higher risk of lung cancer compared to those who were least sedentary. In addition, when the authors looked at cancer risk in terms of total time spent watching TV, the results were even worse – a 54% higher risk of colon cancer for those watching the most TV and a 66% higher risk of endometrial cancer. Presumably, TV watching was probably associated with other unhealthy behaviors such as eating too much junk. Every 2 hours a day spent sitting increased the risk of colon cancer by 8% and endometrial cancer by 10%.

People who sat all day fared poorly even if they exercised every day. It seems that sitting/not moving in and of itself is really bad for the body – so much so that the 30 minutes on the treadmill, while healthy, does not cancel out the ill effects of being sedentary.

What does this mean for us? If you have a job where you literally sit all day in front of a computer, then you need to do your best to get up and move around several times a day (set a timer to remind you). If your office or company is more progressive, then perhaps they won’t mind a standing desk or even one with a treadmill (I know, I know, that’s probably not happening).

While you’re not at work, don’t plop down in front of the TV for hours. If you must watch TV, then work out while watching your favorite shows, and be mindful not to over eat.

- Tamir

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June 2014 Workout of the Month

Once again I’m providing 2 sample exercise programs – one more strenuous, one less strenuous. The workouts can be done as a stand alone program, or can be incorporated into an existing workout program. They are meant to be simple, requiring your own bodyweight or very basic equipment, but are comprehensive in that they cover most of the muscle groups and provide both strength and aerobic benefits.

Before you undergo any new exercise program, with the exception of light walking, get clearance from your physician. This is especially true if you are over 35, have a family history of heart disease or sudden death at a young age, smoke, or have other medical problems such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, back pain, neck pain, knee pain, shoulder pain, etc.

If there’s any exercise that you are not sure how to do, seek guidance from an experienced person or trainer. You can look up any exercise on YouTube, etc. If any exercise feels wrong to you or is causing sharp pain, then do not do it. If I don’t mention a specific number of repetitions, then do as many as you can comfortably without excessively straining. Try to increase the number of repetitions every week by 2. If lifting weights, increase the weight by 2-10 pounds depending on the exercise and your level of fitness.

Since the weather is nice outside, let’s make this month’s workout outdoor based. Just don’t forget to bring plenty of water and preferably try not to work out from 10am to 3pm in direct sunlight to avoid heatstroke.

Program #1 (more strenuous)

Days 1,3,5

  1. Wind Sprints or Hill Sprints alternated with “clap” push-ups – after each sprint, do as many of the push-ups as you can do. Walk back to the starting position and repeat for 8-10 sets.
  2. Sandbag carries – Fill up a duffel bag with 100-150 pounds of sand, and carry it as far as you can any which way you can. Rest for a minute, and repeat for 3 sets.
  3. Frog hops – 5 sets with a minute rest between sets
  4. Sandbag overhead presses – fill up a large back pack with sand. Lift overhead as amy times as you can. Repeat with the other arm. Do 3 sets with each arm without rest between sets.

Days 2,4,6

Super Nature Hike – Find a natural park/reserve. Use common sense and safety precautions (avoid touching poison ivy, going where snakes or ticks might be). This regimen works as follows: You start with a brisk walk for a few minutes to warm up. From here on, alternate sprinting with walking. Along the way, if you come across a medium size rock, pick it up and lift it over your head as many times as you can. If you come across a sturdy branch, do as many pull-ups or chin-ups as you can. Sprint up any hill you encounter. Try to push or roll any log that you can manage. In addition, any log or rock you encounter jump over back and forth as many times as you can.

Day 7 – rest or brisk walk

Program #2 (less strenuous)

Days 1,3,5

  1. Swim laps for 20-30 minutes. Try different strokes.
  2. Bodyweight squats – 3 sets with a minute rest in between

Days 2,4,6

  1. Outdoor hike – find a natural park/reserve, preferably one that has hills. Use common sense and safety precautions (avoid touching poison ivy, going where snakes or ticks might be). Hike at a brisk pace. Whenever you encounter a large rock or log, do a set of push-ups against it. Every few minutes or so, when you come across a tress, try to push or pull against it as if you are attempting to uproot it.
  2. 3 sets of straight punches alternated with 3 sets of straight kicks. If needed, rest a minute between sets.

Day 7 – rest or brisk walk

Enjoy!

- Tamir

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April 2014 Workout of the Month

Once again, here are 2 sample exercise programs – one more strenuous, one less strenuous. The workouts can be done as a stand alone program, or can be incorporated into an existing workout program. They are meant to be simple, requiring your own bodyweight or very basic equipment, but are comprehensive in that they cover most of the muscle groups and provide both strength and aerobic benefits.

Before you undergo any new exercise program with the exception of light walking, get clearance from your physician. This is especially true if you are over 35, have a family history of heart disease or sudden death at a young age, smoke, or have other medical problems such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, back pain, neck pain, knee pain, shoulder pain, etc.

Any exercise that you are not sure how to do seek guidance from an experienced person or trainer. You can look up any exercise on YouTube, etc. If any exercise feels wrong to you or is causing sharp pain, then do not do it. If I don’t mention a specific number of repetitions, then do as many as you can comfortably without excessively straining. Try to increase the number of repetitions every week by 2. If lifting weights, increase the weight by 2-10 pounds depending on the exercise and your level of fitness.

Program #1 (more strenuous)

Days 1,3,5

  1. Kettlebell swings – 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions with one minute rest in between
  2. Kettelbell Clean and Presses – 3 sets of 8-10 repetitions with one minute rest in between
  3. Barbell Lunges – 3 sets of 20 repetitions with one minute rest in between
  4. 8 count bodybuilders – 3 sets with a minute rest in between
  5. Hill Sprints or Wind Sprints – 8 sets

Days 2,4,6

  1. Inclined Push-ups – 5 sets alternated with 5 sets of Jackknife sit-ups. No rest in between exercises
  2. Jumping Squats – 5 sets alternated with 5 sets of Pull-ups. No rest in between sets
  3. Straight Punches – 5 sets alternated with 5 sets of Straight Kicks. No rest in between
  4. Plyometric Push-ups – 3 sets alternated with 3 sets Plyometric Push-ups
  5. Wrestler’s Back Bridge – 2 sets alternated with Wrestler’s Front Bridge

Day 7 – walking or rest

Program #2 (less strenuous)

Days 1,3,5

  1. Neck Resistance Exercise (4 directions) – 2 sets with a minute rest in between
  2. Supported Bodyweight Squats – 3 sets with a minute rest in between
  3. Half Push-ups – 3 sets with a minute rest in between
  4. Calf Raises – 3 sets with a minute rest in between
  5. Overhead Arm Raises using light dumbbells – 3 sets with a minute rest in between
  6. Dumbbell Alternate Curls – 3 sets of 12 with a minute rest in between
  7. 15 minutes of brisk walking

Days 2,4,6

  1. Jumping Jacks – 5 sets with a minute rest in between
  2. Superman exercise – 2 sets with a minute rest in between
  3. Twisting Curls – 3 sets with a minute rest between
  4. Dumbbell Rows – 3 sets of 10 with a minute rest in between
  5. Dumbbell Flyes – 3 sets of 10 with a minute rest in between
  6. Knee-ups – 3 sets with a minute rest in between
  7. 15 minutes of jogging

Day 7 – walking or rest

Enjoy!

- Tamir

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Breast Cancer and Physical Activity: Recent Research

In our book and blog, we repeatedly stress the benefits of exercise and physical activity in general. Unfortunately, many people still associate working out simply with losing weight, not realizing its other multiple health benefits. What ends up happening is that people who are naturally thin or of normal weight, and can stay that way without much effort, become lax about incorporating physical activity into their lives. They figure, “I’m thin anyway, why sweat at the gym.”

It turns out that – even if they’re thin – people who don’t move are damaging their bodies. Research links lack of physical activity to a high risk of dying young, suffering a heart attack, stroke, diabetes, colon cancer, and having a weaker immune system. New evidence adds breast cancer to the growing list of diseases potentially caused by being sedentary.

Breast cancer physical activity

A recent study presented at the 2014 International Conference on Obesity questioned close to 20,000 women (average age of 56) about their physical activity levels. 13 years later, they touched base with the participants to check on their overall health. 900 of the women had died during that time. The researchers found that the women who reported the lowest level of physical activity were 40% more likely to have developed breast cancer, irrespective of weight.

Unfortunately, being obese also increased one’s chances of developing breast cancer by close to 60%. The take home message is that if you’re an obese woman, incorporating physical activity into a healthy lifestyle is essential. But even for women who are already of normal weight, resting on your laurels isn’t a great idea either. It’s increasingly apparent that there’s virtually no one on this planet who would not benefit from moving.

- Tamir

(Image links to source.)

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Exercise Improves Chances of Cancer Survival

In our book and blog, we repeatedly plug the multiple health benefits of engaging in regular exercise. A new study in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health shows that this holds true in cancer survivors as well.

Running

Some people, when faced with a cancer diagnosis, will do their best to treat the cancer with surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation, but will otherwise neglect their diets and physical activity levels. In some cases, they’ll also continue to smoke. This is due to the mistaken belief that once someone has cancer, there’s no point in changing lifestyle habits that are usually thought of as preventative measures.

However, there’s strong evidence that quitting smoking, even after someone is diagnosed with different cancers, can both prolong life and improve quality of life. The study mentioned here shows that the same is true with exercise.

The researchers followed a cohort of over a thousand men (average age 71) who were diagnosed with different cancers. Through questionnaires, the researchers determined the men’s physical activity levels. The results were quite impressive. Those who burned over 3,000 calories a week had half the death rate of those who burned fewer than 500 calories weekly! Even those who burned between 500 and 1,000 calories weekly saw a 23% reduction in mortality.

Although unfortunately this study only looked at men, there’s no reason to suspect that the same wouldn’t hold true in women.

None of us should ever experience cancer; that’s our fervent hope. However, it’s worthwhile to have the knowledge that aside from standard treatments, there’s an aspect of cancer prognosis that people have control over. Lifestyle choices matter.

- Tamir

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March 2014 Workout of the Month

As usual, I’m providing 2 sample exercise programs – one more strenuous, one less strenuous. The workouts can be done as a stand-alone program or can be incorporated into an existing workout program. They are meant to be simple, requiring your own bodyweight or very basic equipment, but are comprehensive in that they cover most of the muscle groups and provide both strength and aerobic benefits.

(Before you undergo any new exercise program with the exception of light walking, get clearance from your physician. This is especially true if you are over 35, have a family history of heart disease or sudden death at a young age, smoke, or have other medical problems such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, back pain, neck pain, knee pain, shoulder pain, etc.)

If there’s any exercise you aren’t sure how to do, seek guidance from an experienced person or trainer. You can look up any exercise on YouTube, etc. If any exercise feels wrong to you or is causing sharp pain, then don’t do it. If I don’t mention a specific number of repetitions, then do as many as you can comfortably without excessively straining. Try to increase the number of repetitions every week by 2. If lifting weights, increase the weight by 2-10 pounds depending on the exercise and your level of fitness.

Program #1 (more strenuous)

Days 1,3,5

  1. Barbell Snatches – 2 warm up sets, then 3 sets of 8 repetitions with 1 minute rest in between
  2. Barbell Lunges – 3 sets of 15 repetitions with 1 minute rest in between
  3. Dumbbell Pullover and Press – 3 sets of 15 repetitions with 1 minute rest in between
  4. Chin-ups – 3 sets with a minute rest in between
  5. Hold a wrestler’s bridge for as long as you can
  6. Hop side to side over a 1 foot object – 2 sets with a minute rest

Days 2,4,6

  1. Sandbag walk – walk 50-100 yards as fast as you can holding a moderately heavy sandbag. 3 sets with a minute rest in between
  2. Wind sprints with a set of Dands after each sprint – 5 sets without rest
  3. Duck walks – 2 sets with a minute rest in between
  4. Push-up walks – 3 sets with a minute walk in between
  5. Frog hops – 3 sets with a minute walk in between

Day 7 – walk or rest

Program #2 (less strenuous)

Days 1,3,5

  1. 15 minutes of dancing holding 1–2 pound hand weights
  2. Rapid marching in place for 5 minutes
  3. Broomstick overhead press – 3 sets with a minute rest in between
  4. Broomstick Curls – 2 sets with a minute rest in between
  5. Broomstick Squats – 2 sets with a minute rest in between
  6. Broomstick Twists – 2 sets with a minute rest in between
  7. Broomstick Forward Bends – 2 sets with a minute rest in between

Days 2,4,6

  1. Brisk walking with hand and ankle weights for 20 minutes
  2. Medicine ball throws (throw a medicine ball up in the air and catch it) – 3 sets with a minute rest in between
  3. Medicine ball crunches – 3 sets with a minute rest in between
  4. Wall Sit – 2 sets with a minute rest in between

Day 7 – walking or rest

Enjoy!

- Tamir

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Being sedentary increases the risk of disability and low quality of life

Both in our book and on our blog, we’ve discussed how bad it is to sit all day. The less a person moves overall throughout the day, even if they also work out, the more likely they are to develop different diseases such as heart failure, heart disease, diabetes, strokes, and certain cancers.

Sedentary for a long stretch

A new study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health shows that the less people move, the more likely they are to be disabled, needing help with even basic activities of daily living such as bathing, grooming, dressing, and meal preparation.

The study followed close to 2300 people over the age of 60 for two years. Special devices called accelerometers were used to measure physical activity (this presumably is a more accurate method to check for movement than simply asking people to recall how much time they spent moving or sitting; in addition, it can quantify how fast the test subjects were moving to differentiate light activities from vigorous exercise).

The researchers found that, on average, people spent 9 hours a day sitting. 3.6% of the subjects reported being disabled. What was disturbing was that for each additional hour spent sitting down, a person had a 46% higher chance of being disabled! This was true even after the data was controlled for time spent exercising, baseline health problems, etc.

What’s the take home message? First off, even if you work out on a regular basis, if you spend the rest of your day not moving, you’re still harming your health. Second, you should realize that with modern medicine, people are living longer, even with conditions such as heart failure which 15 years ago was associated with a markedly reduced life expectancy. As such, quality of life becomes a big issue. It isn’t pleasant to be old and disabled, needing others to help you out with even basic things such as bathing.

Fortunately, much of how we age is in our hands. By not smoking, by moving around, and by eating a healthy diet, we greatly increase the odds that we’ll be kicking around a soccer ball with our grandchildren well into our golden age.

I know what some of you might be thinking – “My job basically has me sitting around the entire day in front of a computer.” Unfortunately, in this day and age, most jobs do tend to be sedentary. As such, we have to come up with creative ideas to incorporate physical activity into our day. You can try taking small breaks throughout the day and walking or running up the stairs in your office. Take a walk during lunch. Avoid the elevator. Definitely do not plop down in front of the TV when you get home. Do something active. Also, on the weekends, try to incorporate extra physical activity to try to compensate for your less active week. It doesn’t have to be running a marathon. Gardening, a bike ride, walking the dog, shooting some hoops, etc. all count.

Once you make small changes, you’ll see that it’s not too hard to incorporate more movement into your daily schedule.

- Tamir

(Image links to source.)

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