Talking Fitness & Health: Concise Discussion on Popular and not so Popular Topics

This is the first in a series of articles discussing a wide range of topics. Discussions are not presented in a specific order, and the length of discussion varies. If there are topics you would like to see discussed message me and let me know the topic of interest.

Fitness & Health 

Fitness is not synonymous with health. One can be fit and not healthy. Hatfield (1993) defines fitness as “Your ability to meet the exigenics of your lifestyle with ease- and room to spare for life’s little emergencies. Thus, what constitutes ‘fitness’ for one person isn’t necessarily fitness for another” (p.419). Hatfield goes on the list 15 components of general fitness. Siff (2000) provides the following definition: “physical fitness refers to the functional state of the slow changing physiological components relating to motor activity. One’s fitness state does not vary significantly over any period up to as much as several days in length, but one’s ability to express fitness at any instant may be substantially affected positively or negatively by mental state, sickness, fatigue, sleepiness and other fairly transient factors. This ability, or instantaneous preparedness, is defined at any given instant and varies from moment to moment (p.33). I define general fitness as demonstrating at least a moderate level of speed, strength, agility, range of motion and endurance. Fitness is concerned with motor, motivation and cognitive factors. I agree with Siff and Hatfield in identifying fitness as a concept-complex (involves different components and varies contextually). So, looking fit (lean and or muscular) doesn’t always mean that one is fit.

The biomedical model of health, sometimes referred to as standard model, refers to health as an absence of disease. This model is lacking in comprehensiveness. The biopsychosocial model involves biological, social and psychological variables, and their influence on health. A wide range of factors is associated with this model. Exercising and adhering to sound nutrition is important to health, but so are other behaviors and cognitions. In 1946 the World Health Organization provided the following definition: “health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity “ (as cited from Brannon & Feist, 2010, p.10)

I avoid using the term neural training to refer to a specific training regimen

Neural training is a label used for any of the following: speed strength, strength speed, variations of power, and or maximum strength training. Motor unit recruitment, rate coding, neural facilitation and neural inhibition are important, as they are key factors associated with neural training. It is often said that protocols used to enhance these qualities are neural in nature, often juxtaposed with metabolic conditioning / training (endurance or hypertrophy training). These regimens (neural training means) train the nervous system, so do all other training regimens.

“From one point of view, we can consider the entire nervous system to be the motor system: it functions to move the body” (Kolb & Whishaw, 2009, p.223). Consider a seemingly simple task, such as locating a db, and picking it up to perform curls. The visual system inspects the db in an effort to determine where to grab db (involving occipital lobe’s visual cortex and frontal lob motor areas- distinct areas). Instructions are sent (via motor neurons) to part of spinal cord involved with controlling muscles involved with arm, hand and any others having role in the movement. Once grabbed sensory receptors involved with info receiving sensory stimuli, send signals to primary sensory cortex, (in parietal lobe). Sensory cortex transfers signals to the motor cortex, relevant to awareness that the db is now being held. The basal ganglia assists in applying appropriate amount of force, and cerebellum participates in regulation of timing and adjustment of movement errors, as the movement is taking place. Some training regimens activate nervous system more than others, but referring a single sort of regimen as neural can lead to a misconception regarding the nervous system’s role in movement. In terms of neuroscience, the motor system is often a term describing elements of the nervous system most directly involved with movement, and for circuits of the spinal cord that issue commands to muscle through peripheral nerves. Complex movements require more nervous system involvement than simpler movements.

The Best Diet 

There isn’t a single diet that is superior to all others. Many roads lead to the same place. If you can’t stick to the diet, it won’t be successful. The psychological aspect of dieting is often overlooked, but is crucial in determining success. For many people, dietary compliance is determined by psychological issues — support systems, coping with emotions, quality & frequency of counseling (Freedman et al., 2001). Pick a diet that you can stick with. If you hate all of the foods included in the diet and you’re really not looking forward to beginning the diet—choose a different one. A quality diet takes the following into account:

Adequate calories. (This matters whether you’re consciously counting calories or not.) Calorie balance is the major determinant of weight loss

Environment factors (variety, eating with others, expectations, etc…)

Essential nutrients (nutrients must come from diet)

Individual likes and dislikes

Metabolic abnormalities

Occasional breaks (You don’t have to stick to the program 100 percent of the time to see the benefits.)

Choosing The Right Diet

Different flavors of cardio 

Cardio (heart) is a word used in referring to endurance training. There are different types of endurance training, involving different proportions of bio-energetic involvement.

There are two general types of endurance training: aerobic and anaerobic.  Training that enhances the athlete’s ability to perform low intensity, long- term movement is referred to as aerobic while training that involves high intensity short-term energy production is called anaerobic. In relation to exercise or sport, it’s important to understand which system is the primary contributor to energy production.

There are two anaerobic energy systems—the adenosine triphosphate, creatine phosphate (ATP/CP) pathway and the glycolytic pathway. After 3–4 seconds, ATP stores are depleted. After ATP levels are depleted, CP comes into play. After about ten seconds of maximal effort, ATP and CP become depleted and the glycolytic pathway becomes the primary contributor to muscular energetics. The glycolytic pathway involves the breakdown of glycogen to produce ATP. Pyruvate and lactate (not lactic acid- lactate not a harmful by product of metabolism) are products of glycolysis. The force production in this pathway is less than the force production in the ATP/PC pathway, due to the slower rate of energy transfer.

There is one aerobic system, the oxidative pathway. Most of your daily activities are fueled by the aerobic system. The oxidative system is the slowest and isn’t suitable for high intensity, explosive activities. Activities of light intensity lasting over two minutes become increasingly aerobic in nature. When sufficient amounts of oxygen are present, pyruvate is shipped to the mitochondria where it enters the Krebs cycle and formulates ATP. Activities that are moderate to high in intensity, and last 2-3 minutes are primarily fueled by the anaerobic system. Activities of light intensity lasting over three minutes become increasingly aerobic in nature. Understanding the importance of energy systems can help optimize your training regimen.

Jamie Hale