Spelman College Cuts Sports Programs, Opts to Fund Fitness for All

Fitness Forum:

Editor’s note: In IDEA Fitness Journal (Making News, February 2013), we reported that Spelman College in Atlanta cut its sports programs in favor of a campus-wide health and fitness program. These readers support the change.

I think it is a wonderful idea to make fitness available to all versus the few. I hope the college will take some of the money and use it for outreach so that all students will understand the value of fitness; make available trainers for those who have no experience with a fitness center environment; and generally make the fitness center a place for the many and not just again the few. Those who most need it are those most afraid and often least welcomed into a gym.
B. Camille Williams, MD
Orinda, California

As a former ACC collegiate swimmer who lost all passion for the sport as a result of the pressure and incidences where we were humiliated in front of others about our weight, I think this school’s emphasis on health and wellness is most admirable.
Susan Dawson-Cook, MS
Author, Personal Trainer and Group
Exercise Instructor
Oro Valley, Arizona

BMI: Overweight People Live Longer?

Editor’s note: The following readers responded to the article “Overweight People Live Longer?” (Making News, April 2013), covering a Journal of the American Medical Association study (2013; 309 [1], 71–82) in which researchers measured body mass index “to perform a systematic review of reported hazard ratios of all-cause mortality for overweight and obesity relative to normal weight in the general population.”

This study has gained much press and has raised the question of whether to rename the categories with regard to BMI. Looking at the data scientifically, the first question is, “What is the endpoint?” In this study, the endpoint was death. It does not imply anything about quality of life or general overall function. Next, one should also look at the co-morbidities correlated (negatively or positively) with being at the current standards of “ideal weight.” For example, elderly women who are of low or ideal body weight are frequently more at risk for osteoporosis (Bone 2006; 39 [2], 385–91). While this in and of itself is not correlated with increased mortality, hip fractures (which occur in those with osteoporosis) have a 50% 1-year mortality rate.

Additionally, BMI has weak correlation with body fat percentage (Clinical Nutrition 2010; 29 [5], 560–66), the latter of which has a very good correlation with mortality rates (International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders 2000; 24 [1], 33–37).

There is also very good evidence that people who are overweight and active live longer and more independent lives than those who are ideal weight and not active (The New England Journal of Medicine 1986; 314 [10], 605–13). Then again, studies show that attending religious services [is] also associated with lower mortality (Demography 1999; 36 [2], 273–85).

The study really suggests that BMI is not a great indicator of longevity or the quality of life with it. Good correlation exists for fat-free body mass and daily exercise. Unfortunately, the lay press has missed the opportunity to promote the true correlation between regular (>5 days a week) moderate-to-vigorous activity and maintenance of fat-free body mass with health and wellness.
N. T. Tsai, MD, FABPMR
Clinical Assistant Professor, Medical
University of South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina

Clearly the sample size was ample (2.88 million people). The [researchers’] findings that “grade 1 obesity overall was not associated with higher mortality, and overweight was associated with significantly lower all-cause mortality” may be summed up by the limitations of using BMI, period. How wonderful it would be to have actual body composition data to more accurately reflect what the results of this study truly implicate.

Half of my clients are most likely in the overweight or grade 1 obesity group BMI range but, in fact, have reasonable body fat percentages with a healthy amount of muscle weight due to their diligent compliance with their strength training programs. With obesity escalating in the U.S., the last thing we need to encourage is a possible misleading interpretation of this research, [which is] that overweight people may live longer. A caution at the end of the article [could be]: “BMI is a field tool for obesity predictions and not an accurate body composition indicator. Please interpret these results with a grain of salt.”

It is very risky to assume that BMI is an accurate prediction of body fat/body composition. We need to influence the field to insist on more accurate predictors of obesity than using BMI.
Kathy Creighton, MS
Body Vision Personal Training
Brookfield, Connecticut

This study should be only the beginning of scientific investigation of this issue. It does not seem logical to investigate all-cause mortality when it comes to obesity. All-cause mortality involves things like accidents (e.g., car crashes), murder, suicide, etc., that have little to do with whether an individual is obese or not. It would be more logical to consider health/illness causes of death of individuals. Using all-cause mortality could therefore skew the results so that it seems as if the overweight and mildly obese individuals have greater longevity than normal-weight individuals.

If the results of this study are legitimate, then there must be an evolutional advantage to being overweight or mildly obese. Some cancers and/or their treatment protocols cause weight loss (sometimes extreme weight loss), and it would therefore be advantageous to have some extra weight to work with in the event one got cancer. The same could be said for famine, something our earliest ancestors dealt with and which continues [to be a problem] in some parts of the world today.
Diana McNeel
Las Vegas, Nevada

The article doesn’t mention whether or not the normal group had any health risks; it only talks about weight which, of course, does not necessarily mean [that participants were] healthy. Additionally, overweight and obese individuals are at a much greater risk for disease and other health problems than normal-weight individuals, and [they] should not assume that if they are overweight or obese they will not get sick and will therefore live longer. The health benefits of having a normal weight far outweigh those of being overweight or obese, and I plan to continue to encourage all of my clients and class participants to work toward a normal weight.
Kim Farmer
President, Mile High Fitness LLC
Denver, Colorado

The Value of IDEA Membership

It’s high time that I thank you. I’ve been a member for so long that [I earned my first certification through the IDEA Foundation (before it became ACE)]. Your publications are filled with value-added information in a user-friendly format that continues to educate and inspire me. Your support in helping us reach out electronically to those who need us makes us synergistically more effective. It is palpable! IDEA FitFeed is another example—a great tool for us to use to help others help themselves. The ripple effect will be surfable!
Francine Bigney
Colebrook, New Hampshire

It is with great pleasure that I can say I have been with IDEA for 30 years. As I turn a page from when I started teaching, while serving in the U.S. Navy, to now—and working through all the challenging changes my body has gone through—[I am amazed]. I have learned a tremendous amount from specialty instructors and from clients. I hope to pass on a healthy philosophy to Baby Boomers. I have watched IDEA grow and expand, and I want to say a personal “thank you” for all that you have done.
Arlette Andersson
Lisbon Falls, Maine

Success at IDEA Personal Trainer™ Institute East

A huge thank-you for everything you did to make IDEA Personal Trainer Institute East such a cool event and a pleasure to be a part of! I can’t tell you how grateful I am to be part of IDEA events both personally—as a presenter—and as the COO for PTA Global, and how much we appreciate your efforts to provide top-notch programming for attendees. You guys rock! Keep up the great work.
Rodney Corn
Co-founder and COO, PTA Global
Yuba City, California

I have presented at IDEA events for the past 2 years, and I am truly honored to be a part of this organization. The presenters IDEA attracts and the passion they have for this industry, as well as the professionalism with which you run your conferences, are unparalleled. I highly recommend attending an IDEA event for anyone eager to grow and evolve in the fitness industry.
Pete Holman, MSPT, CSCS
Director of Rip Training, TRX®
San Francisco, California

This is the second year I’ve had the honor of presenting at the IDEA Personal Trainer Institute, and it was the same superb experience both times. For a presenter, this show is one of the best. The organization is flawless. And the attendees/students are so receptive. What a pleasure to present for IDEA. Mike Bracko, EdD, CSCS, FACSM
Sports Physiologist/Skating Coach,
Institute for Hockey Research
Calgary, Alberta

Is “Forced” Movement the Answer to an Obesogenic Environment?

I thank and applaud Barbara A. Brehm-Curtis, EdD [Bridging the Gap, March 2013], for highlighting the conflicting reality faced by parents and young people in our obesogenic environment. Navigating the twin tides of an environment that drives us to eat more of lower-quality “foods” and a media- and science-driven emphasis on leanness, we parents—especially of daughters—and our kids face [complicated] challenges. Even if we teach our kids to eat right and to moderate their caloric intake to meet their physical needs, we still have to address the roles media and peers play.

I would like to add to Brehm-Curtis’s message of “coaching” folks so they can start to feel success and maybe even enjoyment in activity, with the corollary goal of changing eating behaviors (the unspoken message). Several years ago, I made a presentation to a local group of psychologists and psychiatrists on changing exercise behaviors. After reviewing the utter failures of various protocols, programs and behavior modification/ motivation models, I came to a conclusion few liked to hear: Perhaps we need to simply move in order to get motivated. However, [my conclusion] was very well received and was corroborated by some in the audience. Perhaps we need to simply move in order to get motivated. Draconian in its public policy implications, “forced” movement may be the only way people will change their relationship to movement.

When it comes to healthful living, sometimes the freedom to choose one’s lifestyle is tantamount to the freedom to no longer have a choice. That is what happens when disease rules your life.
Irv Rubenstein, PhD
President, STEPS Inc.
Nashville, Tennessee

GMOs: Be the Change You Wish to See

GMO labeling and labeling fresh produce “irradiated” are both very important to the public. Bad food due to pesticides, fungicides and GMO engineering is killing the soil and slowly killing us. Where is the “good conscience” of the powers that be, when it comes to the health and well-being of U.S. citizens, the earth and the animals?

As a certified holistic lifestyle coach and personal trainer, I have seen what bad food has done to my husband and me. I have certainly recognized what it is doing to my clients and family.

My husband says I am fighting a “losing” battle and that we will never see in our lifetime any great change. But I have become the change—now—in my own home and in the lives of the people I touch who [choose to] listen.
Sonja Scali
Certified Holistic Lifestyle Coach and
Personal Trainer
Spring Hill, Florida

Tying Exercise to Welfare Benefits in England

I think the idea of incentives for exercise is great, especially for lower-income families [Making News, April].

However, I don’t think the government should tell us when or how to exercise or how to move our bodies. It’s too invasive and rigid for the individuality we can each express in fitness. How does this program increase exercise adherence? When the monetary incentive is gone, what happens? I think the answer is to use government money to provide health and fitness education and community exercise options/solutions.
Mac Dodds, MA, CSCS
Owner, Good Life Fitness
Lafayette, California

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June 2013

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