Jason Karp’s article, “The Fat-Burning Zone” [October 2009 IDEA Fitness Journal], was very informative as to the mechanisms by which fat is oxidized. I agree that high-intensity interval training is an excellent way to burn more calories and increase cardiovascular fitness. However, I take exception to his specific workout recommendations that we should have our clients doing 5–6 reps of 3-minute intervals at 95%–100% max HR or 4 reps of 4-minute intervals at 95%–100% max HR. None of my clients (or me for that matter) would be able to sustain that level of intensity for that period of time. Most of my clients cannot or will not work above 85% max HR for 2 minutes. Since Dr. Karp cites several studies of increased fat oxidation at 75% VO2 max, I am not sure why he is recommending such a stringent interval protocol.
We are all trying to meet our clients’ goals while giving them productive, safe workouts. We also want our clients to have successful and enjoyable workouts. Asking the average fit person to work at a level beyond his or her capacity is defeating and counterproductive. Since I do not work with elite athletes, Dr. Karp’s interval training regimen would be far above my clients’ capabilities.
Owner, Health Indulgence
The author responds:
The most potent stimulus to improve cardiovascular function and aerobic power (VO2max)—and also burn lots of calories—is to exercise for 3–4 minutes at 95%–100% of VO2max (or near max HR). In terms of RPE, it would feel like a 9 on a scale of 1–10. Hard, but not all-out.
When I work with competitive runners, VO2max pace is about a 2-mile race pace, so you can think of this workout as running for 3–4 minutes at a 2-mile race pace, which is hard, but very doable. VO2max pace is the fastest pace that can be sustained for about 7–10 minutes, so you’re basically going for 3- to 4-minute reps at a speed that could be sustained for 7–10 minutes. When you think of it like that, certainly the interval workout is manageable because you’re running (or cycling or whatever mode of exercise you choose) for 3 or 4 minutes at an intensity that could be sustained for about 7–10 minutes.
At the beginning of each work period, it will take some time for the heart rate to rise, so out of the 3-minute work periods, maybe 2 minutes are spent at near max heart rate. If your clients cannot exercise at this intensity for that long, then modify the workout so that they can accomplish it and work toward increasing the duration as they progress.
Jason Karp, PhD
I read your article “Young Black Women at Risk for Abdominal Fat, Type 2 Diabetes” [November–December 2009 IDEA Fitness Journal] and wanted to respond to your request for culturally tailored physical activity programs. Through our department of campus recreation at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), we offer a program on physical activity and wellness called “Fit & Phat” for multicultural women. It is a fairly new program that was started this past spring by one of our graduate assistants. She found through observation that multicultural women were the least physically active on the UNCG campus and, after reviewing the literature, she decided to develop a program to address this issue.
It is an 8-week program designed to give women of color a culturally competent place to become more educated about health and wellness. This program will integrate both educational and exercise sessions, helping [participants] adopt healthy, active lifestyles while attending college. By addressing the sociocultural components of wellness and the needs of minority women at UNCG, we hope to see these women become advocates for their own health.
Participants meet twice per week for an educational/group-support meeting and one group exercise session. Discussion topics include cultural barriers such as hair, family factors, cultural foods (identifying healthy alternatives or substitutions), body image and perceptions of minority women, celebrity influences and expanding exercise self-efficacy. Individual pre- and postprogram fitness assessments are administered.
Heather L. Sanderson, EdD, CSCS
Assistant Director, Fitness Department of Campus Recreation
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Thank you for the article “Sustainable Farming and Fitness: A Perfect Fit” [October 2009 IDEA Fitness Journal]. Good suggestions were provided on how fitness professionals can help educate clients about the importance of purchasing local and organic foods. But consumers also need to be educated to know that buying organic doesn’t necessarily mean they are supporting a small, local farm.
Unknown to the majority of consumers, many organic farms are now owned by large food processors. These farms began as small family operations that fed [the family] and perhaps as many as 12 other people. Due to demand, the trend of “organic” and other factors including larger profit margins, huge conglomerates—such as ConAgra, General Mills, Kraft and Heinz—began to purchase the small family farms and incorporate “organics” into their line of processed foods. One example is Back to Nature, which is owned by Kraft; Kraft is owned by the cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris. When [consumers] buy an organic product, do they want to support a cigarette manufacturer? That is a question each consumer needs to answer for him/herself, but the information to do so is not always readily available or accessible to the general public.
These food-industry giants manufacture their organic products using similar methods of traditional food production: on a large scale and sometimes at a high environmental cost, such as excessive use of fossil fuel. Organic foods are often marketed with labels that portray the nostalgic image of the farmer and/or the farm. This clever marketing tactic is meant to make consumers feel good about supporting a smaller farm when, in fact, their purchase supports the corporate conglomerate. Consumers need to be educated to make their decisions to choose organics wisely.
Our role as trainers and educators should be to provide our clients with current, accurate information to encourage knowledgeable decisions; to emphasize the importance of eating real food; and [to convey] that with every dollar they spend at the grocery store, they are making a statement about their health and therefore the health of the environment.
ACE Personal Trainer C.H.E.K Exercise Coach