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     The Official eNewsletter of TODAY! Fitness

vol. 2012 issue 2



ExerGaming:  The Next Level

Certain video games offer kids both fun and physical activity at the same time. This gives parents peace of mind because they can improve their children's health.  This is a fairly new idea called exergaming or active video game play. These video and computer games promote physical activity by getting kids moving. Traditional video games rely solely on handheld remote controls to play the game. In exergaming, the user must move his or her body to play. For example:

  • Dance games require players to follow fun, fast dance steps to score points. Some versions of dance games tell users how many calories they burned at the end.
  • Another gaming system lets users play virtual sports. Depending on the game, the remote control can be used as a racquet, baseball bat, or bowling ball, for example.
  • Exercise and Fitness games put more of a classic exercise flavor to the exergaming and even track progress and goals as a personal trainer would.

The American Council on Exercise did a study and discovered that persons ages 12-25 had a major increase in exercise intensity when playing a fun exercise video game. Older adult participants burned even more calories.  Out of those observed, the subjects on average burned five calories per minute on light mode, six calories per minute on standard mode and eight calories per minute on difficult mode. So for an hour of playing time you could lose at least 300 calories.

A report was published in the September issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.  In it, McManus and Mellecker found that compared with resting children, 39 percent more calories per minute were burnt playing the video passive game, 98 percent more calories per minute were burnt playing the active bowling game, and 451 percent more calories per minute were burnt playing the action/running game. Moreover, the researchers found that heart rates were significantly higher during the active game and the action game compared with playing the seated video game.

It's not recommended that children spend long periods of time playing video games, even those that are exercise related. And it's not a good idea if this is their only sources of exercise. But, kids exercise games such as Dance Dance Revolution, Wii Fit and some Xbox Kinect games do have their benefits. Overall, a better option is to conduct fun kids exercise activities outdoors or even creative kids indoor exercises.

Video games do have their benefits, but it's a good idea to set some ground rules for your kids. Don't let them sit and play games all day and night. Give them a time limit and play with them so you know they abide by the rules.  Remember that the reason to learn about kids exercise games is to give you skills and knowledge necessary to help your children become the healthiest people they can be.  learn how to have fun while playing exercise games

Playing active video games resulted in meaningful amounts of energy being expended in comparison to the normal seated game environment.  "In the J-Mat game -- Jackie Chan Action Run -- the children raised their heart rate to 160 beats per minute, expending more than 5 kilocalories of energy per minute compared with only 1.3 kilocalories when seated. "When using the XaviX Bowling game, which essentially is a standing game with light intensity movement, children expended 0.6 kilocalories per minute more than seated computer game play."

Active video games are also a good option for children who otherwise wouldn't be active, such as kids who don't enjoy sports and those who don't have a safe place to exercise. For children who are shy about their weight or ability to play sports, active video games can offer them an uninhibited way to exercise.  What's more, many children enjoy playing video games. It may be a chore to get your son or daughter to clean his or her room, but with exergaming, your child may not mind exercising.

ref.  'Video Games and Kids' - Jeff A Wise
ref.  ABC News HealthDay Reporter - Steven Reinberg

ref. Jenilee Matz, MPH, Staff Writer, myOptumHealth


Recipes for Health

I tried to put this article off... and I succeeded for a little while... but since my cousin Sheila won't let it go, I just had to put it in J.  I've never really been a recipe kinda guy, but I do appreciate a healthy dish that also has good taste.  So that's what this new section is all about.

I think that an even better idea is to make this a group effort!  That's right, I'm going to open this column up for guest editors to send in your favorite healthy recipes.  So come on folks... smoothies, entrées, soup, salad, whatever... shoot me an email with the ingredients, details, and nutrition information if you got it.  I'll publish a new one each month and put your name on it... deal?

Ok, here's the first one... sent to me last month by my cousin Sheila Alexander (thanks Cuz).  Sounds like a good candidate for your Super Bowl party this weekend when you watch the New York Giants take it to the Patriots again ; )


  • 1 can black eyed peas, drained & rinsed
  • 1 can Green Giant shoe-peg corn, drained
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4 stalks scallions, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 Italian Tomatoes, diced
  • 1 pack Good Seasons Italian Dressing (dry mix), prepared according to package directions
  • 1 can sliced black olives

Mix all ingredients together and serve with healthier bean-based chips (if you're trying to be good).

Click Here to submit YOUR favorite healthy recipe idea!



USA Bodyweight Exercise of the Month!

USA Climb


Now this one is pretty tough, but you gotta like the nostalgia of the old school gym class days when we used to climb the ropes!  So sad that most schools don't do that anymore, nor can the kids actually climb a rope.  Of course, climbing indoors with a low ceiling can be a challenge sometimes, but this exercise provides some of the same challenge if not more.  This climb exercise is pretty much tailor made for the  Universal Strength Apparatus (USA) but you can certainly use a rope attached to the ceiling as well if you want more of a grip challengeIf the back and bi work isn't enough, the added challenge of keeping your legs up will really burn your abs!  Love it!  


Target:  back, arms, and abs (latisimus dorsi, biceps brachii, rectus abdominus)

Description:  Start in a seated position on the ground and reach up to the highest rung you can grab on the USA (or rope).  Tighten your abs so that you hold your legs up the entire time.  Alternate hand over hand, reaching up to grab higher each time while pulling yourself up, climbing to the top.  Reverse your direction in order to lower yourself back down to the ground.  Repeat for maximum number of climbs.

Crunch Time Tactics

It's COLD... I don't like COLD.  But I also know that a lot of people are of the same frame of mind.  This is the time of year that I often get the personal trainer emails and phone calls from people saying "I have 2 months before we go on vacation and I have to put on a bathing suit... I need to lose some pounds... what can I do?" 

This last minute scrambling is kinda like cramming for a test at the last minute.  Although you can certainly make some progress, there's really just so much you can safely accomplish in a condensed time frame.  But still, you can make progress, and better yet, start making some habits that will carry through past your upcoming beach time and get you ready for the summer!

Ok... so first of all let's talk about the pounds.  3,500 calories equates to roughly a pound of body fat.  Given that knowledge, you can pretty much figure out that you would need to create a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day in order to drop a pound per week (compared to what you are doing right now).  Now this doesn't mean that you have to stop eating all together to meet the deficit... it can be a combination of both diet and exercise.  Yes, that also means that the deficit would be roughly 7,000 calories to hit the 2 pound mark!

Making these changes can be more difficult for some than for others.  For someone that has bad eating habits that doesn't workout... the change is pretty straight forward.  Put less into your mouth, and more energy into working out!  However, for someone that is doing pretty well with their diet and exercise, it is more of a matter of taking it up a notch... not always easy to do.

Now as far as the diet part goes, there are many different ways of making a change.  PLEASE, don't think that cutting out breakfast is a good thing... wrong answer.  Your metabolism is way low in the morning which means that you're not burning a lot of calories.  Even eating a small, healthy breakfast is enough to put fuel in the furnace to burn calories while providing you much needed energy to have a productive day.  You'll most likely find that you get hungry earlier when you each breakfast than when you don't... this is a perfect example of your metabolism at work!

Besides starting off your day with some healthy oatmeal, yogurt, or vitamin packed cereal... you'll want to keep that furnace stoked by eating frequently.  This does NOT mean eating more.  You can make your meals smaller and still eat more frequently.  Start by cutting your lunch in half and eating some of it earlier or later.  This spreads the calories out, makes more effective use of them, and helps your stomach to digest each meal more thoroughly.  Eating HEALTHY food every 3 hours or so is a good target, with apple slices, carrot sticks, almonds or a variety of other choices as good snack alternatives.

Portion Control!  I'm a big offender of this.  But when I have to, I know that this little tweak in my diet can have a big impact!  Many of us over eat, mainly because we like food... not because we are really THAT hungry.  We really don't need as much as we take, and end up eating.  This is particularly true at dinner or when we go out to eat.  It is a good idea to plan ahead of time how much we are going to eat, and then stick to it.  Even if it means that we are taking home leftovers or wrapping stuff up for tomorrow.

Even when we think we are hungry, we don't give ourselves enough time to feel satisfied.  We woof our food down and then complain later that we are stuffed.  Although it may not always be practical, slowing down our meals can allow us the time needed to get past that.  Usually around 20 minutes or so after eating you should get past the hunger pangs.

There are so many tricks and tips that can help as well.  Things like using smaller plates, forks, spoons and cups at home help with portion control.  Starting your meals with a full glass of water or a salad will help you control your need to overeat.  Soda bad... deep fried foods bad... grease bad... sweets bad... and yes, alcohol bad.  I know, no surprises there... but cutting out any of those that you consume regularly can really add up in your weekly calorie deficit.  Start out by just cutting them out during the week, and then treat yourself (moderately) over the weekend... it gives you something to look forward to!

Exercise!  Gotta do it folks!  Best bet is to do both cardio AND resistance (weight) training.  Cardiovascular exercise burns calories while your engaged in the exercise, but resistance training will increase your caloric burn for hours after you are done.  In addition, the more muscle that you build, the more calories that you burn at rest due to an increased metabolism!  You can get a better idea about the estimated caloric burn (for your bodyweight) during exercise at this link.

If I could give one suggestion for your cardio sessions, it would be to look into incorporating some interval training into your cardio sessions.  Interval training has been proven to be the best form of cardio that you can do to lose fat and increase cardiorespiratory performance.  If you've been good about getting your 30-45 minutes per session, 3-5 times per week on the treadmill, elliptical, or bike... then try this. Keep a nice "cruising" pace for a minute, then go all out for 30 seconds, go back down to cruising pace for a minute, then back to high intensity for 30 seconds. Continue this 2:1 ratio of low intensity to high intensity for as much of your workout as possible. Don't overdo it to a point that you feel dizzy, but challenge yourself during the high interval and recover during the low.  Walk/jog... jog/run... interval training can apply to all different modes of cardio exercise.

I can go on and on and on about various ideas for the resistance training portion, but if you are looking for some exercises, I have started to compile a decent library of exercises from these newsletters that you can perform with little to no equipment.  Here's a link to the index page.

Soooo... 2 months to go before the cruise?  That gives you a safe potential of 8-16 pounds of fat gone, more muscle, increased conditioning, and better overall health.  Worth training for?

It's Go Time!

January is done... How are those New Year resolutions holding up?  Are you in the statistics of people that fail miserably and bail, or did you power through, fully engaged, basically just getting started?  If you had a few setbacks, don't feel bad... You haven't failed until you quit trying!  Regroup, reset your goals if necessary, and get back on track!  There are no shortcuts to any place worth going!

For most of us winter is a tough time for energy levels.  The cold, gloomy weather doesn't do much to encourage us to go outside... the chill in the air doesn't make us want to get out of bed until we absolutely have to... and it's dark in the morning AND in the evening... just not fair!  Still, where there's a will there's a way, right?  As most of my coaches used to say in high school... "SUCK IT UP!"  If your health and your goals are important enough to you, you'll get yourself focused and make time, not excuses!  Put your mind to it and you can accomplish anything J

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Exceed Your Potential!

Pete Mazzeo, CPT

"Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it." - Lou Holtz

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