Archive for December, 2007
As personal trainers and group exercise instructors, we often complement or ‘outsource’ portions of our program design in order to create a more comprehensive workout for our clients. (I’ve often suggested cardio routines or fitness classes for clients to participate in addition to our sessions.)
However, with the popularity of downloadable fitness podcasts (which include every kind of cardio routine, muscular conditioning exercises, and yoga and pilates practices) consumers are not complementing their traditional in-person training. They are starting to replace them. And why shouldn’t they? Podcasts are affordable (anywhere from $0.99 to $3.99 per workout), produced by top fitness professionals, are regularly updated, and can conveniently integrate into anyone’s schedule.
I think it’s important for fitness professionals to listen to these podcasts and see exactly how they might impact our clients’ programming. From there, we can recommend or advise accordingly. Unfortunately, there are more than a dozen companies that provide comprehensive health/fitness podcasts. I can’t imagine anyone has the time to listen to every single one… but someone’s got to start somewhere…
Podcasts should be scored under two categories: exercise science (what are the physiological demands of the workout, are there any contraindicated moves, etc.) and exercise adherence (what features lead to continued subscriptions, what techniques from health behavior change models are applied, how are cues articulated, etc.). I don’t spend too much time dissecting the physiological impact of a workout unless there is a major discrepancy in this area. The biggest problem in our country is not trying a workout, it’s maintaining one. So my reviews tend to be heavier on adherence-side.
I started with Marina’s Podcasts first because the demos I listened to were instantly engaging. Marina is not only a fitness personality, but an entertainer (her background in dance and music gives her podcasts a lot of spunk). I immediately downloaded “Treadmill Workout #2″ and “Motivational cardio program #23″ (chosen purely for their appeal to my musical tastes).
Exercise Science: Marina’s workouts range from 20-30 mintues at length (which is perfect if you want to customize your workouts by combining two or three programs). Also, it meets the Surgeon General’s recommedations for daily physical activity. I strapped on my heart rate monitor and followed her technical cues for the treadmill routine. The speed and incline transitions were executed comfortably, workout was sustainable. Those who are brand new to exercise or don’t enjoy running, may find this particular design a bit challenging (as it includes running speeds above 5.2 mph). But Marina’s encouragement allows for different options. I opted out of the running portion and still found the workout to be effective. Does not cue regular water breaks, so drink plenty of water before, during, and after workout.
Although every fitness level will benefit from Marina’s podcasts, I would definitely recommend to those who are just starting an exercise program. Marina does not overwhelm the participant with tons of fitness jargon and exercise physiology. It seems her goal in the cardio designs is to keep you entertained while moving. And realistically, that’s all most of us really need!
Exercise Adherence: Marina’s energy takes ahold of you immediately. She is positive and funny, singing and humming along with her music. You instantly connect with her. She understands the challenges we have with exercise because she, too, struggled with her own body weight (once weighing 215 pounds, then dropping 100 pounds through diet & exercise). She truly is your exercise partner - not dictator. I found myself constantly smiling throughout the workout, and even laughing out loud at several of her comments (startling those around me). I repeated both workouts twice more after that and enjoyed them just the same.
The motivational workouts were (to me) more effective in keeping me on track than the treadmill ones because I didn’t have to adhere to a particular program design (which can sometimes make you feel guilty or unsuccessful if you can’t keep up with a pre-programmed workout). Marina gives you the option of purchasing her workout programs without instructions – in the event you only want to buy her music (which is also well-produced).
The only criticism I had came from several cues I felt were oddly placed or vague – such as, her disclaimer on consulting a physician before starting an exercise program (which was articulated halfway into the workout). Or, her refering you to a fitness professional at the gym regarding any questions you may have about the workout (this is assuming you’re even at the gym). But why would a person, who may already feel hesitant in participating in group fitness or relunctant in getting a trainer (hence why they’re listening to a podcast), approach someone else with questions (especially not knowing what questions they should have.) Isn’t this why they are paying for podcasts in the first place – to be guided and instructed? I couldn’t quite figure out who Marina’s audience was.
With that said, I truly respect and applaud Marina for her contributions (she has quite the database of podcasts). Like so many of us, our underlying goal is in helping people sustain healthier lifestyles – and obviously what works for one client, may not work for someone else. Thank you for a great workout, Marina! Continue doing what you do!!!
If you have any podcasts you’d like me to review or have evaluated some on your own, I’d love to hear from you. But for now, let’s continue to learn from each others’ efforts.
After all, aren’t we just the same peas in a podcast?
Kix here – your health & fitness correspondent from SecondLife! I know the followers of this blog have an interest the application of exergames! Well, I have great news – we love ‘em in the virtual world, too! In fact, last weekend I spent (way too much) time playing the in-world version of Dance Dance Revolution. No, I didn’t get a high score (only 4090 points), but I did complete 24 combos! So, if anyone wants to challenge me for a SL competition – name your day & time and I’ll meet you at Meg Writer’s house (80, 27, 22) in EduIsland II. Game on, my exer-peeps!
Who says you can’t meditate to a video game? The Wild Divine is offering a series of multi-media meditation products that focus specifically on healthy relaxation techniques. The Journey to the Wild Divine Series is an interactive computer game equipped with biofeedback sensors that monitor heart rate variability and skin conductance through your fingers. As you develop these techniques (as determined by your physiological responses), sections of the game unlock to advance your journey or game play.
Here’s a demo:
Biofeedback sensors are a reliable measurement tool designed to heighten your awareness of your physiological responses to specific stimuli. Using these data in video games to enhance or impact the outcome of game play – well, that’s when things get interesting…
In the past, studies have demonstrated the physiological responses to game play (increased blood pressure in PacMan, heart rate response to DDR, etc.), but these hardly impact the design of the game. In other words, PacMan doesn’t decrease or increase its difficulty based on your heart rate. But as games become more interactive and program designers enter the health and fitness arena, these variables will be explored and manipulated. Cool, huh?
I came across this recent study published in the proceedings from the Digital Games and Research Association (2007): “Please Biofeed the Zombies: Enhancing the Game Play and Display of a Horror Game Using Biofeedback” A. Dekker, E. Champion (Note: the biofeedback device from Wild Divine was used as the measurement tool.)
Here is an excerpt from the abstract:
“During game play, [Half-Life 2] was dynamically modified by the player’s biometric information to increase the cinematically augmented “horror” affordances. These included dynamic changes in the game shaders, screen shake, and the creation of new spawning points for the game’s non-playing characters (zombies), all these features were driven by the player’s biometric data.”
“While the evaluation results indicate biometric data can improve the situated feeling of
horror, there are many design issues that will need to be investigated by future research, and the judicious selection of theme and appropriate interaction is vital.”
Granted, this research didn’t come to any health or fitness-related conclusions. But, as games evolve, the scope of research will, too.
In Hawaiian wiki means “quickly” or “fast.” In today’s internet-savvy world, the term wiki has evolved to “a type of computer software that allows users to easily create, edit and link web pages.” The most popular one being wikipedia.
Since wiki software is open source, more professionals are creating their own industry wikis as a way to organize field information and collaborate on company projects. Of course, what better use of a wiki than to take advantage of the collective intelligence of health, fitness and wellness professionals!
Attention all health and medical professionals (especially doctors): there is now an official medical wiki (WiserWiki) accessible by any internet user. All entries will be “edited only by board certified doctors to ensure that the information is as trustworthy and reliable as possible.” It’s still in its infancy (beta phase), therefore, has limited entries. But over time, I suspect this will be a significant resource for the general population, as well as, medical professionals for acquiring knowledge on all-things health-related. Think of it as WebMD meets Wikipedia.
Nothing is currently available exclusively for fitness or wellness professionals, but perhaps it will only be a matter of time before we see a group exercise wiki or a personal training wiki.
Watch out world, here wiki-come!
I spent some time at Barnes & Noble yesterday browsing through the new arrivals (Steve Martin’s new book “Born Standing Up” looks promising). Anyway, this particular store was located inside one of those mega-(should-have-its-own-zipcode)-malls. As I was leaving, I had to walk through the mall – which (this time of year) is the equivalent of playing dodgeball, except you’re dodging kids instead of balls. On this insanely crowded day, I came across a giant white pad on the floor just outside the food court. Kids were all over it, jumping and screaming deliriously. As I observed their chaos, I discovered the source of their addiction: Reactrix “a network of interactive and immersive media displays.” Basically, a physically engaging advertisement campaign.
Here’s the jist of how it works: each 30-second ad is designed with its own game objective to which a ‘player’ can jump, hop, kick, stomp on the ’screen’ (floor) in order to interact. For instance, a popcorn ad entices a passerby to jump on the kernels and pop the corn with their feet. (Photo: a young girl kicks the ball to another player).
Here’s what I find interesting: Although anyone can jump on this ‘game’ – those who tend to be most attracted to it are the kids. Meanwhile, it captures the parents attention as they stand on the sidelines watching, in essence, a 30-second commercial for popcorn on a sticky food court floor. In terms of advertising, I suppose it’s ingenious. But when you consider that this technology could be applied to exergaming development, creating the potential to elicit longer bouts of physical activity, well… then you’re only left with disappointment.
Check out this YouTube video – it demonstrates the range of this technology:
My favorite Reactrix demo was the soccer game – the equivalent of Nintendo’s Wii Bowling. How cool would this game be on a rainy day (or that 122 degree afternoon in Arizona – since we don’t get much rain here)? Maybe ‘wii’ exergaming advocates should send Reactrix letters suggesting they design sport-specific games for the health and fitness industry. Who knows, maybe Reebok or Nike will endorse the games.