Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Guest Post

I was recently contacted by a very nice guy at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance who asked if he could post a guest article on the importance of exercise in the fight against cancer. As a firm believer in the healing powers of proper nutrition and exercise, of course I said yes. So, without further delay, here is his take on the importance of exercise - specifically as it pertains to those fighting cancer.

Exercise - Cancer Treatment’s Secret Weapon
by David Haas

In addition to conventional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation, the fight against cancer has a new weapon: working out. And while it’s well known that exercise is healthful for everybody, it plays an especially vital role in cancer treatment, with benefits ranging from improved stamina to a better body image.  Experts from the National Cancer Institute state that regular exercise at a level appropriate for a cancer patient’s condition can improve not only quality of life, but also ups the odds of surviving the disease.

Cancer and its treatments impose severe stresses on the body. Pain, fatigue, weight and appetite loss can make exercise the last thing on a cancer patient’s mind. But, oncologists and therapists say, for many people it should be one of the first things.  And although ‘exercise” may conjure images of vigorous aerobic workouts, the new recommendations for exercise during caner treatment emphasize that it’s movement of all kinds that makes the difference, whether it’s running a mile or stretching gently while in bed. The key is movement – activity that keeps limbs flexible and blood and oxygen flowing to the brain and body.

The role of exercise in cancer prevention has been well documented, with statistics showing that regular workouts can actually reduce the risk of cancers including breast and colon cancer.  But until recently its role in active cancer treatment and recovery has been less studied. Now, though, exercise that takes into account individual needs and concerns may be added to treatment plans for a variety of cancers. Strength training, aerobic exercise and stretching can all help cancer patients to feel better, move better and tolerate treatments more easily.

For individuals who have undergone surgery for breast cancer, weight training and stretching can stabilize and strengthen the shoulder and chest muscles. Aerobic exercise, which can be as simple as a daily walk or as intense as running, cycling or organized sports, oxygenates the blood, keeps blood vessels flexible and stimulates the immune system. Even those who are bedridden can benefit from gentle exercise such as raising and lowering the arms or lifting the feet. Stretching and flexibility workouts such as yoga or tai chi can keep joints working and muscles relaxed. This kind of exercise also incorporates meditation and mindfulness to help reduce stress and activate relaxation responses, with benefits for blood pressure and the immune system.  Individuals recovering from surgeries may find stretching helpful to strengthen healing muscles and tissues.

Some types of cancers, such as mesothelioma, colon and other upper body cancers, cause wasting and weight loss. Strength-building exercise can build back muscle, which supports the body, stimulates appetite, and creates a more positive body image. An added bonus is improved balance and coordination.

Experts from NCI caution that while exercise should be a part of cancer treatment, exercise regimens should be planned with the help of the care team or a physical therapist familiar with the special issues affecting cancer patients. Some treatments can leave patients nauseated and dehydrated, so care must be taken to keep hydrated during exercise.  Because some cancers are associated with muscle weakness, precautions to avoid falls may be especially important.Treatments for some cancers can also cause bone fragility, so vigorous exercise or high impact workouts may increase the risk for fractures.

Because exercise places extra demands on the body’s energy reserves, nutrition is also important. Cancer and its treatments can cause a loss of appetite or an inability to tolerate the healthy fats and carbohydrates needed to support the body during intense exercise, leading to fatigue and loss of stamina. Keeping well hydrated and nourished is essential for exercisers with cancer.

Exercise during cancer treatment gives patients a sense of control and normalcy, which contributes to overall quality of life as well as physical comfort.  Working out also encourages connections with others and a sense of community. Fitness can also be an important aspect of post-cancer survival. Many cancer survivors commit to regular exercise as a part of their ongoing wellness regimen, but experts urge some caution for these individuals as well since treatments may have some lasting effects such as bone weakness or balance and coordination problems.

For those coping with cancer and its treatments, exercise offers benefits for mind, body and spirit. Along with treatments, nutrition and emotional support, new research suggests that working out may be the newest weapon in the fight against this disease.

About the author:

David Haas is a cancer support group and awareness program advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. David often blogs about programs and campaigns underway at the Alliance, as well as creative fitness ideas for those dealing with cancer. You can read more of David's posts and find a ton of additional information by clicking here.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

30-Day Consistency Counts Challenge Winners

“The person who makes a success of living is the one who sees his goal steadily and aims for it unswervingly. That is dedication.” - Cecil B. De Mille

The face of determination.

The first FFF fitness challenge - the 30-Day Consistency Counts Challenge - was a tremendous success. Almost 100 women participated and nearly all gained strength and lost pounds and/or inches. I want to congratulate all who participated. I created this challenge after reading so many stories of women in the group second-guessing their methods after just a few days! I hope you all learned a bit about the importance of choosing one method for strength gains/weight loss and giving it a chance to work before f*cking with it.

Our Winner:

Sara Barrett
Start Weight: ~ 184 lbs, 32% BF
Goal: Cut and drop BF
Why: “I wanted to drop 20 lbs by July and started that goal since January and have made no progress. It's no longer about weight on the scale though, I just want to be less fat for my summer activities. New Goal: Entering the dating pool again in a bit so I gotta look sexy!”

End Weight: 176.4,
“I lost -9 lbs! Lost -2 inches from my waist and 1 from my hips!”

Sara has been selected as the winner of our first challenge due to her unwavering commitment, enthusiasm and dedication to sticking with her plan. She is always one of the first FFF members to chime in when others have questions or concerns and her terrific results were a great start to what will no doubt be a long healthy lifestyle! Way to go, Sara!

Challenge Cubs Honorable Mentions

Kirsty Gibson
Start Weight: 218.5 pounds
Goal: Lose body fat and build strength
Why?: “Going to Florida in September and I want to look awesome in shorts/dresses/bikinis.”

Weight 218.5lbs - 215.5lbs (3lb down)
2" above navel: 93cm - 89cm (4cm down)
Navel: 103cm - 99cm (4cm down)
2" below navel: 111cm - 108cm (3cm down)
Hips: 111.5cm - 108cm 2.5cm down)
Thigh right:          65.5cm - 64cm (1.5cm down)
Tight left: 65.5cm - 64cm (1.5cm down)

Kirsty is fighting hard to re-gain control of her body and we’re so proud of how well she did in the first challenge. While her numbers aren’t huge, she will no doubt continue dropping pounds and inches as she continues on her journey. Keep it up Kirsty! You’re doing GREAT!

Lauren Hadaway
Start Weight: ~152lb, BF: ~20.2% (19.9 and 20.4 readings within a few days of eachother)
Goal: body recomp, lose the muffin
Why: "It's something I've always strived for but never quite hit."

End Weight: ~152 (my weight flucuates all over the map daily. Hard to tell)
BF: ~19.7%. "I Don't trust the machine, but I can see more ab definition."
DL: 6x155 -> 5x190
Bench: 8x40 (dumbbells) -> 6x105 (barbell)
Squat: went from 135-> 125, but I don't think I was going parallel before. ATG now.
Glute Bridges: 8x135 -> 8x205
Chins: 5x -10lbs (assisted)   ->  4x +10lbs (added weight)
Taking Pics. Going for another month after tweaking some things.

Lauren’s experience proves the scale doesn’t tell the whole story. She made huge strength gains and lost inches while maintaining the same scale weight. This is a true indicator of lean mass gains and CNS training. Keep it up!

Erica Zbyszewski
Starting Weight: 153 lbs
Her goal: “Drop fat, build muscle, get strong, and be able to look at my (very white) legs and not see an ounce of cellulite. Also, lose some of the boob weight. It would be nice to be able to buy a normal cup-sized bra that doesn't cost a hundred dollars.”

Why: “I've never had muscles. I want to go to there.”

End Weight: Between 146.3 and 147 (loss of ~6+ lbs)
Erica lost inches and reports she is able to wear clothes that had been packed away long ago. Much of the cellulite is gone and her bra size went from 34 F to 32 DD.

“I LOVE lifting heavy and am so happy to have found this great support network.”

I wanted to recognize Erica for setting specific goals and achieving them. In just under 30 days she used consistency to lose approximately six pounds and is able to shop for bras in a regular store. (Only women would understand this one).

Den Mother Award
Though her cubs may not always like it,
the tough love of a mother can't be beat!
I created the Den Mother Award to recognize an FFF member who is always a positive influence on the rest of the members. Tanis Parenteau’s results speak for themselves (we’ve all seen the photos!), but her attitude is infections. I hope she is as inspiring to the rest of you as she is to me.

Tanis Parenteau
Start Weight: 136.5lbs, 18% bf
Goal: Cut -- going from lean to ripped
Why? “Giving myself a six pack for my 35th bday on May 27th

End Weight: 130.5lbs (couldn't get calipers done--trainer didn't show)
R bicep: -1.5cm
L bicep: -1.5cm (this is great, I carry fat in my tris!)
Waist: -1" (measured inches for this)
R thigh: -1.5cm
L thigh: -1.5cm

I'd like to ask each of those recognized here to comment on this with the method they used to make their gains/losses throughout this challenge so our readers can see that, while there are many methods to gain strength and lose fat, the one thing they all have in common is CONSISTENCY!

Stay tuned for new challenge announcement later today or tomorrow.