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Fast & FUN Ways to Stand Out in Your Community on National Family Health & Fitness Day

National Family Health & Fitness Day

Local fitness centers can help form the bridge between generations by showing families how they can be physically active as a team. National Family Health and Fitness Day, occurring this year on September 26, 2015, will be the 19th year in a row that the United States has devoted a day to events promoting family fitness.

The goal of National Family Health and Fitness Day is to make fitness fun and to show ways that families can remain active at all ages.

Fitness centers are in a unique position to promote a lifetime of healthy decisions when they can support a family’s goals, show ways to incorporate fitness into the everyday life of a family, and create a family-friendly workout environment.


Although the benefits of healthy eating and exercise can be found in every magazine and on numerous television shows and podcasts, America’s youth still struggles with getting enough activity.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, approximately half of America’s young generation between the ages of 12 and 21 do not regularly participate in vigorous activity.

Part of this is due to the removal of physical education classes from many school districts. If the classes have not been removed, they have been decreased to where only 19 percent of high school students participate in a 20-minute PE class five days a week.

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Physical Activity Recommendations

The U.S. Surgeon General recommends daily participation in moderate physical activity and suggests that youths aim for a 30-minute walk or 15 to 20 minutes of higher-intensity sport play. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ups the ante slightly and says adults, teens and children should aim for 60 minutes of daily exercise.

This can be divided up into smaller durations and does not have to be a continuous time period. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 150 minutes of moderate activity each week, which can easily be achieved with 30 minutes of exercise five days a week.


Family Fitness Fair

Local fitness centers can promote these minimum fitness requirements by showing families that exercise is fun. A family fitness fair is a way to encourage members and nonmembers to use the health center, plus local health experts can be on site to provide wellness tips and testing with regard to:

  • Body fat
  • Blood pressure
  • Cholesterol
  • Weight
  • Blood sugar
  • Heart rate
  • Body mass index
  • Posture
  • Foot health

Many local hospitals can send a nurse to perform some of the health tests. Other local professionals, such as chiropractors, physician assistants and podiatrists, are delighted to share their services with the community.

By working with local health providers, fitness centers increase their networking, boost membership and show locals that they are invested in the health of their community members. Local fitness participants will choose to purchase memberships at health centers that invest in their families' wellness.


Enjoyable, Safe, Confident

Local businesses can easily support family efforts to achieve and maintain health. Adults and children alike should learn that exercise is enjoyable when it is performed safely. Plus, participants should feel confident in their ability to perform workouts and know that their bodies will do what they ask.

Trainers are an in a wonderful position to provide safe exercise instruction and help adults and children build their self-confidence. When an exercise routine is adapted to each fitness level, adults and children learn to work within their limitations yet push forward and reach their goals.

A family fitness fair on National Family Health and Fitness Day is the perfect chance for families to speak with a trainer without the pressure or intimidation of an intense sales pitch.

Trainers can be available for fitness consultations, fitness testing and to give examples of how personal training sessions benefit families. Family sessions can be scheduled as a way to maintain the family bond and keep each member accountable to the new routine.


Fun Run

At a family fitness fair, a health club can organize a fun run for families of all ages. The goal of the run is to finish the race, and families can run as individuals or perform a team relay if needed. Walking is encouraged and can be set up as a separate event.

A competitive atmosphere is not encouraged, as the goal is to make exercise fun and for each family member to feel confident in his or her abilities. A way to reduce the competition is to award everyone a t-shirt or to let families start and finish the run as they arrive instead of starting all the runners at the same time.



If the facility has a pool, an indoor triathlon can be set up — again, without competitiveness but simply to show participants an example of the three different sports. For instance, ask participants to swim for 20 minutes, ride an indoor bike for 20 minutes and then run or walk on a treadmill for 20 minutes.

Exercise sheets can be passed out and filled in the way one would fill in a bingo card. As family members complete each exercise station, they mark that square on their sheet.


Obstacle Course

One of the biggest and most popular physical challenges of the past few years is an outdoor obstacle course. Fitness centers can set up an outdoor obstacle course using available items such as chairs, aerobic steps, hula hoops, exercise balls, weight benches and more.

Imagine a course in which you walk the balance beam on steps, run tires through hula hoops, crawl under weight benches, jump rope for 20 yards and roll over the tops of balls. This fun way to exercise is something that parents can set up at home in the backyard, and health clubs can inspire this passion.



Cake walks are fun events at many family gatherings and are a version of musical chairs. Participants walk around on images of goodies that are arranged in a large circle, and whoever lands on the predetermined image wins a cake. While fitness centers do not want to promote sweets, images of fruits and vegetables could be used, with participants receiving apples instead of cakes. Other games that encourage movement and are easy for fitness trainers to lead are:

  • Mother May I
  • Red Light, Green Light
  • Simon Says
  • Duck, Duck, Goose — standing, with participants marching or doing jumping jacks in place


Big Events

A way to draw in more community members is to include a large event at the family fitness fair. Schedule a strength team to perform eye-opening feats such as tearing phone books, ripping license plates or squatting with four people on their backs. These teams typically have a health-promotion message that will reach audiences of all ages. Members and nonmembers will arrive to see what the club has to offer.



To prepare students for the Presidential Fitness Test, stations can be arranged at a family fair that include pushups, sit-ups, stiff-arm hangs, pull-ups and flexibility testing. Handouts can be provided to identify the preferred ranges in each of these categories, and trainers can help set up a mini workout that improves a student’s ability to do the exercises.

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Family Group Exercise

Fitness trainers can lead group classes for families by team-teaching a sample session. For example, four instructors can stand on each side of the room, as if it were divided into north, south, east and west. The instructor in the north position leads the warm-up and a portion of a kickboxing class; then, participants turn to the instructor on the east side of the room for 15 minutes of Zumba.

Next, participants turn to the back of the room, or south, for strengthening exercises, followed by a turn to the west instructor for abdominal work and a cool-down. Participants get a taste of each class in a fun and highly motivating atmosphere, which will encourage them to return for a complete group fitness workout.


Lasting Impression

Fitness centers can help families remember all they have learned by having handouts available. These can include healthy recipes, fitness tips and reminders of ways to incorporate exercise into everyday life, such as:

  • Parking away from the store doors.
  • Using stairs.
  • Walking the dog.
  • After-dinner walks.
  • Pushups or crunches during commercials.
  • Hula-hoop afternoons.
  • Dance jams in the living room.



Health Clubs should collect family contact information and keep communication open as to how they can best serve their members. This communication goes a long way toward helping people reach their health and wellness goals, especially in families.

According to research from the College of Family and Consumer Sciences at Iowa State University, parents who maintain open communication with their children are more likely to have children who make healthy food choices and participate in physical activity.

One way trainers can encourage this communication, say the researchers, is to provide role-playing opportunities in which parents have easy, natural conversations regarding healthy choices.

A family fitness fair on September 26, 2015, is a way to make fitness fun and promote National Family Health and Fitness Day. With a little preplanning, this day will be something that community members look forward to each year and to which they will return in order to see what new fitness trends have emerged.

SPORTSMITH™ has been supplying fitness equipment parts and fitness products to health clubs for 20 years, and by keeping up with the trends and technologies we have kept our customers engaged and satisfied with our customer service and wide array of products. Click here to learn more about how we can help your health club stay current and well stocked!

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15 Nutrition Tips That Will Transform Your Life

15 Nutrition Tips

As the health and fitness industry has grown into a multi-billion dollar sector, the market has been flooded with so much information that it has become virtually impossible for the average consumer to make sense of everything. Diet books and websites with conflicting advice are popping up with unrelenting frequency, and information from government agencies can be just as confusing and unhelpful. These 15 straightforward tips will clarify what you need to be doing with your diet and put you on the fast-track to a healthier lifestyle.


  1. Portion Control

The number one tool that will help you eat more nutritiously is a digital food scale. While you can approximate portion sizes using your hand, digital scales are remarkably accurate, and decent models can be purchased for about $30. Keep in mind that some restaurants serve 8-12 ounce portions of meat in a dish! Keep it to approximately 4-5 ounces per serving and you’ll immediately reduce your calories and fat significantly.

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  1. Utilize Superfoods

Superfoods pack an incredible amount of nutritional benefits into one serving, and many of them are delicious as well. Sprinkling chia seeds on your morning yogurt will yield a wealth of antioxidants. Adding avocado to a fresh salad will provide an indulgent flavor and rich texture, complete with beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Swapping out lettuce for kale in a salad will give your lunch some much-needed fiber.

  1. Cook as Much as Possible

Going out to eat with loved ones is a great way to spend an evening, but cooking most of your meals yourself is a foolproof way to eat healthier. It’s simply too easy to fall prey to giant portions and rich, fatty foods in restaurants. Cooking at home allows you to control every aspect of the meal from the ground up. Save a meal out for an occasional treat and try to avoid the fast-casual chain restaurants that are notorious for packing a day’s worth of calories into a single dish.

  1. Don’t Drink Your Calories

Sodas are nothing but sugar bombs that don’t provide any nutritional benefits and won’t help you feel full. Recent studies are showing that even diet sodas are made from chemicals that may be harmful, even while being calorie-free. Limit your beverages to water, unsweetened tea, and black coffee. And unless you’re a professional athlete burning thousands of calories a day, sugary sports drinks should definitely be avoided.

  1. Read Nutrition Labels

During your next trip to the grocery store, pay attention to the federally mandated nutrition labels on the back of every packaged food; you might be unpleasantly surprised to find out what’s in your staple items! Look for ingredients that are high in protein and fiber, and low in saturated fat and sugar. Be aware that while the total amount of sugar is listed on the label, the amount of sugar as a percentage of the daily recommended allowance is not required.

  1. Fill up on Fiber

Fiber is one of the most crucial nutrients in a healthy diet; it helps regulate the digestive system and, as an added benefit, it helps you feel full for longer. Eating a diet rich in fiber means you’ll be less likely to binge on unhealthy snacks later on. Beans are an excellent source of both fiber and protein, and the brassicas family of leafy green vegetables (including kale, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts) is teeming with versatile, flavorful options as well.

  1. Be Judicious with Good Fats

For most of the 1980’s and 1990’s, fat was demonized as the foundation of unhealthy diets in America. Recent science has shown us that some fat in our diet is both necessary and beneficial. Saturated fats, abundantly found in red meat, should be eaten sparingly. But healthy, monounsaturated fats found in ingredients like olive oil, nuts, and fish should be a part of your daily routine.

  1. Avoid Processed Foods

Focus on purchasing ingredients that look as close as possible to how they did when they came from the farm. Processing plants rely on things like extra salt and preservatives in order to reduce spoilage and maximize profit. These tricks are for the benefit of their bottom line, not your health!

  1. Indulge Occasionally

If you constantly feel like everything you want is being withheld, you’re far more likely to fall back into bad habits. Every once in a while, enjoy something just because it tastes great and ignore what nutritional benefits it may or may not provide; just remember that portion regulation is your friend. Have a small steak or a serving size of cheese and augment it with an abundance of fresh, calorie-light fruits and vegetables.

  1. Drink More Water

The next time you feel hungry in between meals, try drinking a glass of water before you reach for the snack drawer. Studies have shown that we often mistake thirst for hunger pangs, and proper hydration may be just what you need to keep you feeling satisfied until your next meal.

  1. Don’t Fear Spices

What many cultures around the world know, and what Americans are just starting to discover, is that generously using spices throughout your cooking is a great way to wake up your palate and pack a dish with flavor without relying extensively on fat. Spices like cumin, paprika, and coriander make food exciting to your taste buds, and they do it without adding any significant calories!

  1. Pack in the Lean Protein

Protein is essential for the body to build muscle and convert energy, and it’s best to rely on sources rich in lean protein like fish, tofu, and beans for the majority of your intake. Protein-rich foods that are higher in fat—like beef, dairy, and pork—should be eaten more sparingly. Don’t forget that many nuts make great high-protein snacks in one-ounce portions.

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  1. Eat Breakfast Everyday

Hectic lives make it tempting for many people to walk out the door in the morning without eating breakfast, but this mistake can be detrimental to your healthy lifestyle. Eating breakfast helps control your metabolism and provides you with energy for the day. Pack your blender with whole fruits and vegetables the night before for a quick and easy smoothie in the morning. Steel-cut oatmeal with fresh fruit also makes for a delightful, nutrient-rich breakfast.

  1. Embrace Occasional Hunger

If you’re hungry between meals and water hasn’t helped, maybe a snack isn’t the best answer every time. Most people are too quick to grab whatever is near at the first sign of hunger, but sometimes it’s ok to just be hungry until it’s time for your next meal. Obviously, you need to use good judgement and not deny your body when it is desperately in need of something, but often, you’ll find the hunger will pass and you’ll avoid binging on processed snack-foods.

  1. Snack on Whole Foods

When you do need a snack to tide you over, pass by the bagged treats and processed bars, and choose something more natural like whole fruits or a judicious serving of almonds. Companies can pack more sugar, salt, and fat into processed snacks than you would think possible.

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Top Fitness Trends for 2015

top fitness trends for 2015The verdict is in on this year's top fitness trends. It's clear from the new list of fitness trends that people are turning back to the basics and becoming more concerned with overall health, rather than just appearance.

1. Body Weight Training

Body weight training took the number one spot for fitness trends in 2015. This type of exercise is growing in popularity because it is both inexpensive and requires little to no equipment. This no-gym-required type of workout includes exercises like:

  • Push-ups
  • Squats
  • Pull-ups
  • Handstands
  • Planks

2. HIIT (High-intensity Interval Training)

HIIT workouts were the top trend last year and are still a popular workout option in 2015. This type of workout has maintained its popularity among the fitness-minded because it's an excellent way to burn fat. In HIIT workouts, short bursts of intense activity are designed to get the heart pumping hard, then these short bursts of intense exercise are followed by a period of rest or recovery. The benefits of HIIT workouts include:

  • Increasing the body's metabolism rate
  • No special equipment is needed
  • Intense workouts in under 30 minutes
  • Increased endurance
  • Recovery time means rewer injuries

3. Utilizing Certified Fitness Professionals

With so many different exercise styles circulating around the Internet, it's no wonder that people are turning to certified professionals when it comes to workouts. The benefits of seeking out professional advice or direction for workouts include:

  • Avoiding exercises that can cause injury
  • Learning the most effective types of exercises for particular goals
  • Increased motivation

4. Strength Training

Strength training offers a lot more than just a muscular physique. This one makes it into the top five trends for 2015 because of all the benefits fitness junkies can derive from it. By focusing on working and strengthening specific muscles in the body, strength training helps exercisers to:

  • Increase bone density
  • Help control weight and burn fat
  • Develop endurance and balance

5. Personal Trainers

The use of personal trainers in on the rise as people realize that not every workout works for them. A personal trainer works with an individual to accomplish specific fitness goals in the most effective way. Using a personal trainer is a great way to remain motivated to keep up fitness goals too.

6. Exercise for Weight Loss

Fitness and exercise are becoming more central to weight loss plans. This trend in fitness comes about as people realize that fad diets just don't do the trick for real, lasting weight loss. According to WebMD and the CDC, exercise is the only sure-fire way to keep the weight off after it has been shed from the body. Exercise helps maintain a healthy body weight by:

  • Controlling calories
  • Increasing metabolism
  • Increasing energy
  • Curbing feelings of hunger

7. Yoga

Yoga has been a fitness trend for several years now and has maintained its spot in the top 10 fitness trends for 2015. Yoga is a great total-body workout that can be relaxing and enjoyed by those of any fitness level or age. Yoga comes in many varieties and some of this years top trends within yoga include:

  • Tantra Yoga
  • AcroYoga
  • Live Music Yoga
  • Hot Barre Yoga
  • Yoga Pole Dancing

8. Workouts and Exercise Programs for Older Adults

It has become clear that exercise is crucial for maintaining health as people age. With this in mind, fitness professionals and gyms have developed more programs that are geared towards serving an older generation of exercisers. For older adults, exercise helps to:

  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Reduce the risk of diabetes
  • Improve stamina
  • Reduce depression and anxiety
  • Maintain bone density
  • Increase coordination

9. Functional Fitness

As the name would suggest, the trend of functional fitness makes everyday activities easier. With a large number of people working in sedentary conditions, functional fitness plays a big role in getting people to the point where lugging a baby up the stairs or moving furniture around the house isn't so difficult. Functional fitness exercises work to help:

  • Muscle groups work together
  • Balance the body
  • Find and improve on weaknesses

10. Group-Style Personal Training

Because hiring a personal trainer can easily burn holes in wallets, many people are adopting the number 10 trend on this list: group sessions with a personal trainer. Getting together with a friend or two and seeking out a personal trainer willing to work with a small group can be a great way to cut the price tag and still reap the benefits of personalized instruction.

SPORTSMITH™ has been supplying fitness equipment parts and fitness products to health clubs for 20 years, and by keeping up with the trends and technologies we have kept our customers engaged and satisfied with our customer service and wide array of products. Click here to learn more about how we can help your health club stay current and well stocked!

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National Family Health & Fitness Day

This year’s National Family Health & Fitness Day falls on September 29th, and as every year, on the last Saturday in September. Events are scheduled in local communities throughout the United States, to promote family involvement in physical activity. There are many ways, and just as many reasons to participate.

Lifestyles have changed through this country’s evolution to its present state, and so has the level of physical activity in its families. This is commonly evidenced by the overall American state of health. The American Health Foundation says that health improvement in the U.S. has declined more than 69 percent over the last decade, as compared to the 1990s.

Various issues are often purported to be the root of this decline, yet, regardless of cause, the evidence is still the same. American families need more physical activity.

Physical activity is beneficial to the health of both mind and body. This applies to anyone, at any age. Parents who set an example for their children, in scheduling regular physical activities for the family, are setting them up with healthy habits that could last for a lifetime.

These activities may not need to take much extra time, if any at all. You might easily integrate some into regular daily activities, such as walking to work or school. Still, if you are uncertain as to how much physical activity is necessary to maintain a healthy body, there are some suggested guidelines to work with.

Adults require two types of physical activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These include moderate-intensity aerobic activity for 2 ½ hours weekly; accompanied by two or more days of muscle-strengthening activities, that work all the major muscle groups.

For younger family members, The National Institutes of Health states that most children need at least an hour of physical activity each day. A few of the benefits that this one hour can yield are stress relief, a healthy weight, and raised self-esteem.

On the other end of the spectrum, a lack of physical activity may yield the opposite effect. According to the Mayo Clinic, physical activity helps to prevent, and even to heal the effects of such inactivity. These include high blood pressure, obesity, and depression, to name a few. These types of issues often come together, making it easier to prevent them than to overcome them.

Alarmingly, these issues are no longer exclusive to adults, as many had once considered them to be. Obesity itself is now considered at epidemic levels, and affecting any age.
Aside from unwanted physical and emotional health issues, obesity has unexpected financial costs, and thus creates expense that anyone can afford to lose. An infographic from Forbes offers some surprising insights into this aspect.

It offers straightforward facts such as, in America alone, in the year 2010, medical costs related to obesity were at $160 billion. Gas consumption, due to increased passenger weight in earthbound vehicles, went up an extra 938 million gallons for that same year. Airline fuel consumption soared, as well. Yet, these are just a part of the unnecessary expenses associated with obesity.

This epidemic must be faced.

Hence, family health and fitness is one venue to empower each family member individually, as well as the family as a whole.

Empowerment could mean that you or your child may never need to take on the challenges and associated health risks of an obesity issue; or it could mean that a family member who already has can experience the thrill of victory, with overcoming these same things.
Physical activity puts your family more firmly in control of its own physical health, and hence, of its own financial health.

National Family Health & Fitness Day can be that first step in a healthier direction, or it can be another step on the road to family fitness. It matters not what level of fitness your family is at, it is a day to re-empower your whole life, and the life of your whole family.

The National Family Health & Fitness Day website offers suggestions on where you may find these events held in your local community. These can include your local YMCA, schools, health clubs, and various other community locations. Your local newspaper may have events in your area listed in its community events section.

If you happen to live in an area without an event held nearby, you can still participate in the day. Invite your family for some physical activity, and enjoy the benefits in more ways than one.

Suggestions for the day might include:
* A walk
* A bike ride
* A game of Frisbee golf
* Line dancing
* Rollerblading, roller skating, skate boarding
* Any sport the whole family enjoys participating in

Whatever you do, be creative, have fun, and be actively involved in your family’s health and fitness.


Family Health & Fitness Day

Family Health & Fitness Day Starts Sept 29

Saturday, September 29 2012 is an important day for America. It’s not an anniversary of a battle, although it could be seen as a day to engage in battle against the so-called Obesity Epidemic that is sweeping America and the developed world. Family Health and Fitness Day USA  aims to promote health and fitness across America by keeping it in the family.

According to the US Surgeon General’s report on physical activity and health,  more than 60 per cent of American adults and almost half of the nation’s children do not engage in enough physical activity to maintain health. Family Health and Fitness Day USA aims to encourage parents and children to enjoy activities together and learn how to live a more healthy lifestyle.

Organized by the Health Information Resource Centre (HIRC), 2012’s event is the sixteenth of its kind. It’s a national and local initiative, with organizations such as schools, hospitals, parks, malls, health clubs and Christian groups such as the YMCA and YWCA hosting non-competitive health and fitness functions for all the family to enjoy.

Family Health and Fitness Day USA is a national wake-up call, aimed at getting families together to learn about nutrition, health and fitness and participate in fun events across the country.  It’s a day for families to focus on fitness and make a dent in the frightening statistics relating to obesity and poor health.

The Obesity Epidemic in America

According to the Get America Fit Foundation (GAFF), more than 60 million adults are obese, while 9 million 6 – 19 year olds are overweight. The presentation of hypertension, diabetes and other obesity-related conditions in children is on the rise. As these life-threatening diseases are normally associated with obesity in adulthood, there is a real danger that the current generation of America’s children may not make it into old age.

The statistics make for sobering reading. In the space of around thirty years, childhood obesity has effectively trebled, with almost one third of America’s youngsters either overweight or obese – that’s around 23 million kids.

Why the big rise? Children are now eating around 1,000 calories a day more than they need, and spending up to 6 hours a day in front of the television, computer or games console. Back in the 1960s, almost half of all children cycled to school, but fear of crime, changing weather and increased affluence mean that these days, kids are either taken to school or drive themselves there.  In addition, physical education is no longer a priority on the school curriculum.

Why it’s important to be fit and healthy

In purely monetary terms, overall fitness and health benefits both individuals and the government.  Work days lost through illness affect both the employee who loses out on income, and the government, which loses out on income-related taxation. Then there’s the burden on the health service, medical insurers and the social security system.

On a more personal level, maintaining a healthy weight and staying fit reduces the risk of contracting obesity-related diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, some forms of cancer, arthritis and cardiovascular disease.  Avoiding these potentially life-threatening conditions makes for a longer life, which means you get to see your children – and probably your grandchildren – grow up. Currently, the average lifespan for Americans is 78.2 years, which is low compared to other developed, relatively prosperous countries.

Just 30 minutes of vigorous exercise five times a week can help maintain physical and emotional health, yet only31% of Americans take enough exercise to obtain those health benefits. Exercise can also boost your immune system, making you less prone to sickness and disease. It's also an acknowledged mood lifter - people who exercise regularly are less likely to suffer from depression.

Involving your organisation in Family Health and Fitness Day USA 2012

Local organizations across America can register to host an event by filling in the registration form on the official website. On receipt of the registration form, organizations will receive a resource pack with ideas and information, and access to the official website. Registration costs $30, and includes a license to use the official logo in publicity material for your event. Small organizations running a single event may qualify for free registration.

Participating in Family Health and Fitness Day USA 2012

Check out the local press for details of events in your area. Local schools, churches, hospitals, medical centres, gyms and sports centres may also be hosting events, so ask around. Available events will depend on the organizations hosting them and local interests. Typically, these events may include workshops, health screenings, games, organized walks and exercise sessions. Email [email protected] for more information on events in your area.

Family Health and Fitness Day USA 2012 is an ideal opportunity to learn more about health and fitness, while enjoying a great day out with the family. Exercise doesn’t have to be an ordeal – when the whole family have fun together, getting fit and healthy can actually be a pleasure. Remember, the family that plays together can look forward to staying together for much longer.

What events are you or your facility planning?
(Leave your answer in the comments)

Some fun items to include in your event

Jump Ropes
Medicine Balls
Resistance Tubes
Power Bands


How to Find a Health Club or Fitness Center that’s Right for You

With the holiday season and the New Year fast approaching, many of us will be looking to get fit and to lose some weight to look our best. Sadly, many of these resolutions don’t last beyond the first month. The key to sticking to your resolutions is to find a good health club or fitness center that’s right for you. It has to have good, motivational staff that will encourage you to achieve your goals. It has to offer facilities, activities and workouts that you want to keep you going back. Most importantly, it has to be clean, affordable, and convenient.


A health club or fitness center with well trained staff that can motivate you is particularly important for beginner gym-goers. The staff must be able to answer your questions about any workouts and show you how to use the gym equipment. Be sure to ask about the staff and their qualifications. Also inquire if there are personal trainers available. A few sessions with a personal trainer can also be helpful to help you to map out your goals and encourage you along the way.


Some health clubs or fitness centers offer only the most basic facilities while others have pools, saunas, and perhaps even a spa that offers massage therapies. Larger gyms may also have nutritional therapists attached. Ask about these additional benefits but try not to be dazzled by them. Too often, many of us sign up to these fitness centers with the best of intentions but do not use any of the facilities. Decide on what you want and don’t over commit yourself to an expensive contract. If undecided, ask if the health club or fitness center has a trial period so you can determine what facilities you will really use.


Before committing yourself to a gym, ask for a tour of the facilities and ask to test some of the equipment to make sure it is well maintained. There should be a wide variety of machines, including guided machines and cardio equipment like treadmills and ellipticals. If you enjoy working with free weights, make sure these are plentiful. Other popular equipment include fitness balls and floor mats.

Group fitness classes

We all have different workout preferences, with some preferring solitary workouts while others enjoy more structured programs with a larger group. If you prefer classes, make sure your gym has a good mix of group classes at convenient times throughout the day. Aerobics, Yoga and Pilates are popular options. If there is a specific workout program that you would like to try like Zumba or High Intensity Interval Training, equire if the gym offers those programs.


On your tour of the facilities, make sure the health club or fitness center is clean, with appropriate locker space and well maintained toilets and showers. The workout area should have plenty of gym wipes, or disinfecting spray bottles dotted around the room with paper towels so you can wipe down the equipment after you have finished.

Contracts and costs

The right health club or fitness center should be within your price range. Most offer a variety of contracts to suit every budget. Some will have pay per use contracts while others charge a little more in exchange for allowing its members to visit different gyms in the chain. Some contracts will be monthly while others will be for the whole year. Shop around and compare prices, making sure to only pay for what you need. Also, enquire if you can put the contract on hold in case of illness or travel.


One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a health club or fitness center is its convenience for you. If it is a hassle to get to, you will be more likely to give up your workout for the day. Make sure the gym is in a suitable location for you, with the appropriate operating hours. If early mornings are the only time that will work for you, make sure the gym opens early. If group classes are more your style, make sure these are at times that suit you. Visit the gym during peak times to ensure that it isn’t overcrowded as this will reduce your enjoyment of the workout. If you will need a child minded while you are working out, ask if the gym has childcare facilities. Don’t forget to ask about their operating policies during the holiday season.

The right fitness center or health club has to feel right for you. To help you decide, watch out for free trials or ask if they have a pay as you go option. Some gyms also have incentive periods where they waive joining fees or offer discounted trial memberships. Remember – the more you like the gym, the more likely you are to stick to your resolution so don’t be too quick to decide on the right gym for you.


What is Functional Fitness?

Functional training is growing in popularity as more people besides weightlifters and high-performance athletes are hitting the gym. In the past, strength training was used mainly by bodybuilders and power lifters to increase muscle size and strength, according to the training manual, “NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training” by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Today, people with fitness goals other than bulking up - such as weight loss and general fitness - are trying strength training. Research sponsored by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) indicates that functional training is particularly useful for older adults, but functional training is truly for everyone. Functional training provides a practical training method for benefits that extend out of the gym and into daily living.

General Benefits of Functional Training

Functional training utilizes exercises, equipment and programs that translate into the strength and flexibility that people use in every day life. Activities as simple as stepping up and down off a step or doing bicep curls standing on one leg can be functional exercises. These might not give a person huge biceps or a six-pack, but true fitness is not only what makes a person look better, according to the IDEA Health & Fitness Association. Functional training produces benefits to assist people in activities of daily living, such as walking up stairs, carrying groceries, and picking objects up off the floor. Functional training accomplishes this with such benefits as:

* Stronger Core Musculature

* Increased Flexibility

* Increased Strength

* Better Dynamic and Stationary Balance

* Improved Agility

* Improved Cardiovascular Endurance

* Better Posture

* Stronger Joints

Older Adults and Functional Training

As people get older, it is expected that they will lose muscle tone, flexibility and balance. This reduced strength and capacity for movement makes the need for functional training even greater for older adults. A study conducted in 2007 at the La Crosse Exercise and Health Program of the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse observed the effects of a functional training program on men and women between 58 and 78 years of age. The participants who engaged in a functional training program gained significant improvements in upper and lower body strength, balance, shoulder flexibility, and cardiovascular endurance. John P. Porcari, Ph.D., and Denise Milton, M.S., conducted the study that was later published in the July/August of 2007 issue of “ACE FitnessMatters.”

Improved balance also reduces chances of a potentially debilitating fall. Additionally, increases in functional strength make seniors more independent as they are again able to perform more of the tasks that they once could do without assistance.

Other Populations and Functional Training

Older adults are not the only people who need functional training. Most anyone can benefit from building a strong, flexible and agile body. The average person benefits from functional training because it slows or eliminates the potential loss of strength and mobility that comes with age. Despite some misconceptions, children and teenagers also benefit from strength training, according to ACE. This population has little need for heavy weight training or advanced sports-specific training, making functional training a more practical and enjoyable choice.

Goals and Tools of Functional Training

Functional training makes the physical aspects of life easier. The goal of functional training is not to lift as much weight as possible, known as maximal strength, or to drastically increase muscle tissue size, known as hypertrophy. Therefore, extremely heavy weights and weight machines are not the tools of choice for functional training. Instead, functional training involves resistance and core training using bodyweight, free weights and balance trainers.

Bodyweight exercises and free weights including kettlebells, dumbbells and resistance bands are effective for functional training because they require the body to lift weights without the support weight machines provides, thereby mimicking real-world scenarios. Even soup cans and water bottles can be effective functional training tools. When a person needs to lift a heavy box or raise their body up off the floor, there are no levers, pulleys or adjustable seats that control the weight and support the body as when using weight machines. Without the unnatural support of machines, functional training also improves body awareness.

Another popular functional training tool is the TRX Suspension Trainer. The TRX has two ropes with handles for the hands or feet that hang from the ceiling. This allows a person to use their own bodyweight as resistance for various exercises. The TRX is simply the latest trend in bodyweight, or body leverage, functional training. Yoga, Pilates, boot camp classes, and even fitness pole dancing are also examples of functional training programs.

Balance trainers also work for functional training. They are small tools that create an unstable surface on which a person can stand, kneel, sit or lie upon. For some individuals, standing on one foot is enough of a balance challenge, but for others there are balance trainers such as the Sportstep and Step360. A Sportstep has two sides, either of which can rest on the floor.  One side is half of a stability ball and the other is a flat platform. Both sides wobble when a person lies, stands or sits upon it. Balancing while standing on an unstable surface improves proprioception, which is the body's ability to discern where its parts are in physical space. Increased proprioception translates to better balance. Balance training also requires greater recruitment of core muscles, which is why crunches on a round, inflated stability ball are harder than regular crunches on a flat, unmoving surface like the floor. Even a pillow or folded towel can serve as a balance trainer.

Functional training may be receiving more attention now, but it has always been part of exercise in some form or another. Gymnasts, soldiers and yoga practitioners have been using functional training to build better bodies for years. Gym goers or home exercisers benefit from functional training with little financial investment and only a few days a week of functional workouts.


Rethinking Resistance Bands

Resistance bands are a simple, inexpensive way to strengthen your skeletal muscles. There has been resistance (no pun intended) to resistance bands by some people because of how they say resistance bands feel when they’re using them. Resistance bands are unlike dumbbells or barbells because you don’t know exactly how much you’re lifting. While this is true, the amount you lift basically depends on how you use them. If you put the right amount of tension and use good form, you can get a tough, beneficial workout from resistance bands. Plus, how would you like to have an entire gym in your suitcase when you travel? This is possible when you carry on resistance bands because of the variety of exercises you can do. You can change directions during your exercises and challenge your balance and core. Here are few exercises that can amount to a full body workout to get you started today.

1)      Bicep Curl- Stand on the resistance band with one foot or both if you want to challenge yourself. Grab the handles and pull up like you’re doing a dumbbell curl. Do three sets of ten.

2)      Squat- Stand on the resistance band with both feet and hold the handles up to your shoulders. Lower yourself until your legs are a ninety degree angle. Come back up. Do three sets of ten.

3)      Chest Press- Wrap the resistance band around a pole. Stand with your back to the pole. Press forward and release. Do three sets of ten.

4)      Seated Row- Turn around after chest press. Pull handles in towards you making sure to squeeze your back as you go all the way back. Release. Do three sets of ten.


Torch Your Abs with Stability Balls

Every time I go into my gym, the treadmills and elliptical machines are being occupied, and there seems to be a never-ending line at the weight benches. While these pieces of equipment are all fantastic and should be included in your workout, I must bring attention to a simple piece of equipment that always appears to be forgotten, the stability ball. Stability balls are a wonderful way to shape and strengthen your core.  They force all of your abdominal muscles to work to perform the exercise, thereby giving you a complete core workout. Too often, sit ups or crunches only touch on some of the abdominal muscles, which only cheats you of the fitness and health goals you want. Benefits of a strong core include better balance, more energy, better posture, and less risk of injury. Here are four stability ball exercises to fire up your core now:

1)      Leg Tuck: With this exercise, you work your lower abs. Put your hands on the floor and toes on ball like you’re in an elevated push-up stance. Roll the ball to your chest by bending your knees and then roll it back. Feel free to roll diagonally to work the obliques.

2)      Around the World: Sit on the stability ball with your feet to the floor. Circle your torso to the left and then back to the starting stance. Repeat on the right side. This will work your obliques as well.

3)      Ball Sit: Lean against the wall with the stability ball separating you. The stability ball should be against your lower back. Go down so that your legs make a right angle. Hold for a minute. This will work your glutes and core.

4)      Ball Sit-Up: This is a sit-up on the stability ball. Sit on the ball and put your feet out so that your knees make a ninety degree angle. Place your hands behind your elbow and lie all of the way back. Squeeze your abs and come all the way up. Fall back and repeat.


Kettlebells Can Maximize Your Gains

You may have heard the term kettlebells in your gym or read the word in Men’s Health, but many people who exercise don’t incorporate them into their training routine, which is quite the disservice. The best way to describe kettlebells is that they are cannonballs with handles. Unlike dumbbells, the majority of the weight of kettlebells is beyond the reach of the hand. Yet just like dumbbells and resistance bands, kettlebells are an effective way to build strength and gain a complete cardiovascular workout.
The reason for their effectiveness is in their shape. Since the weight is beyond the reach of the hand, it is tougher to control kettlebells. The hands, arms, back, legs, and core must work harder to maintain form. This increase in muscle activity means an increase in metabolic output, which means more fat lost.
Kettlebells put a new spin on old exercises. A key component of building mass and strength is tricking the muscles. If you do the same routine each time you work out, you and your muscles will get bored. You will not put in the same effort, and your gains will plateau. Doing a chest fly with kettlebells, rather than dumbbells, changes the exercise completely resulting in mass and strength increases. Plus, kettlebells are versatile and can be used to work out many different parts of the body. It is possible to do a total body circuit workout with just two kettlebells and push your body to the limit. Kettlebells are a necessity in any home gym and should make an appearance in your fitness regimen if you are looking for something different that will make you leaner and stronger.