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Are Women More Motivated By A Chubby Fitness Trainer?

I was taken aback by a recent conversation I had with a gym owner. She is interested in encouraging middle-aged women to come to the gym for beginner-level fitness classes and was planning a strategy meeting for her staff and key clients. I asked if I could join and she said that I was expressly un-invited. Slightly miffed I asked why that was so – after all, I’m a rehab physician who has devoted my career to getting people moving.

“You’re too advanced.” She said. “Beginners wouldn’t relate to the way you work out, we’re really more focused on creating a less intimidating environment for women.”

“You mean, like the Planet Fitness ads? The ones where athletes are not welcome?” I asked, confusedly.

“I don’t like those ads but the idea is the same. Beginners feel deflated by working out with people who are in far better shape. They don’t even want their instructor to look too fit.”

“You’re kidding me. Women would actually prefer working out with a chubby trainer?”

“Yes. In fact, I’ve had some women come to the gym and actually request NOT to be paired up with some of our personal trainers specifically because they look too fit. They are afraid they will be asked to work too hard, beyond their comfort zone.”

“So why are they coming to the gym in the first place?” I asked. “What is motivating them if they don’t want to work out hard or change their bodies in the direction of athletic-looking trainers?”

“They’re just interested in staying the way they’ve always been. Maybe they’ve started putting on weight after they hit their 40′s and 50′s and just want to get back to where they were in their 30′s. They’re not interested in running marathons or lifting the heaviest weights in the gym. They don’t want to be pushed too hard, and they prefer trainers who look healthy but not extreme.”

Medically speaking, it doesn’t take extreme effort to be healthy. Many studies have shown that regular walking is adequate to stave off certain diseases, and weight loss success stories (chronicled at the National Weight Control Registry for example) usually result from adherence to a calorie-restricted diet and engagement in moderate exercise.

In a sense, these women who “don’t want to work that hard” are right – they don’t have to perform extreme feats to be healthy. However, I am still fascinated by the preference for “average looking” trainers and the apparent bias against athleticism. This must be a fairly common bias, though, because national gym chains (like Planet Fitness) have picked up on it and made it the cornerstone of their marketing strategy. “No judgments” – except if you’ve got buns of steel, I guess.

When I choose a trainer I am looking for someone who embodies the best of what exercise can offer. An athlete who has practiced their craft through years of sweat and effort… because that’s my North Star. Sure, I may never arrive at the North Star myself, but I like to reach. And that’s what motivates me.

But for others, having a professional athlete for a trainer may be a mindset misfit. If your aspiration is to be healthy but not athletic, then it makes sense to find inspiration in those who embody that attitude and lifestyle. The important thing is that we all meet the minimum exercise requirements for optimum health. According to the CDC, that means:

* 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week


* muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest,  shoulders, and arms).

How you get there, and with whom you arrive, is up to you. Chubby or steely – when it comes to health and fitness the best mantra is, “whatever works!”

Many Physicians Don’t Identify Red Flags In Teen Athletes’ Health

Before reaching for tests like EKGs to screen teen athletes, we should first ask ourselves if we’ve taken a careful history:

The new study consisted of Madsen and his fellow researchers sending out surveys to every pediatrician and family practice doctor in Washington State. They received a good response–surveys were returned by 72 percent of pediatricians and 56 percent of family practitioners.

The results were disheartening:

  • 28 percent of doctors surveyed failed to always ask if a teen experienced chest pain during exercise.
  • 22 percent of doctors surveyed failed to Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Wes*

The Importance Of Physicals For Young Athletes

Injured football player.Increasing numbers of young people participate in outdoor activities, including strenuous competitive athletics. In so doing, they subject their bodies to stresses that are more intense and prolonged than those presented by a largely sedentary life. Every story of a sudden death in a young person is a tragedy, and usually accompanied by commentary pondering the role and utility of pre-activity screening. Could the death have been prevented? What was the physiological condition of the deceased? Could the collapse, often attributed to a heart problem, have been predicted? Was there an examination or evaluation that might have indicated that the deceased was at greater risk, or should have been held out of the activity? These are all important questions, with no simple answers.

Sudden collapse and cardiac arrest in a young person seems wrong. It shouldn’t happen. It is a parent’s worst nightmare. Similar horrors occur on the freeway when a teenage driver is killed, or at the beach when a surfer is tossed in a monster wave and drowned. We know a great deal about injury prevention; much of our teaching and experience points to errors in judgment. But the situation is different when the seemingly healthy slumps to the ground without a pulse. That person has been taken by surprise in a cruel act of fate.

Sometimes we learn that the victim had Read more »

This post, The Importance Of Physicals For Young Athletes, was originally published on by Paul Auerbach, M.D..

The Athletic Heart: How It Functions

It may seem a little formal to say this, but I would like to start by stating my goals for today’s post:

  • Introduce the concept of the athletic heart;
  • Touch upon the notion of sudden death of the athlete;
  • Explain what an ECG really is, and how it may help diagnose heart disease;
  • Review a recent study about the common ECG variant seen in athletes…Early repolarization.

Intro: The adaptations of the human heart never cease to amaze me. Physical training transforms our hearts into high performance engines. Repeated sessions of interval training, combined with longer aerobic efforts, and sprinkled with adequate rest maximize our ability to keep pressure on the pedals, or run the sixth mile of the 10k at the same pace as the first, or for you swimmers, to keep getting back to the wall on the 1:15 mark.

Fitness also brings measurable changes in things we can observe. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

CDC Outlines Injury Prevention Strategies In Extreme Weather Conditions

Photo: the sun.It may seem rather unusual to talk about injuries and weather in the same context, but extreme weather can pose significant risks for many kinds of injury.  Currently, many parts of the United States are experiencing a major heat wave, with record-setting heat and heat indices over the next few weeks.  As we have seen in the recent past, deaths are occurring from heat-related and possibly from participation in outside activities that increase the risk of heat-related illness.

During the month of August, many athletes train for the fall sports season, sometimes participating in two practices a day over the course of a few weeks.  While training is necessary and important for athletes to build up their stamina and to improve their performance, health consequences can be deadly if Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at CDC Injury Center: Director's View Blog*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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