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Why Baby Boomers Are Addicted to Elliptical Trainers

 

Elliptical trainers are a growing segment of the fitness equipment industry.  One of the driving forces behind this growth are baby boomers.  Now that the earliest of this generation are starting to hit retirement age, many are experiencing the aches and pains of years of abuse to their joints.  Walking, jogging and running are less and less appealing because of the impact to the joints.  Even when done on a shock absorbing treadmill.

 

Enter the elliptical trainer, also known as crosstrainers.  Ellipticals came in response to the need for a cardio workout without the impact.  There are two primary benefits of an elliptical trainer…

 

Low Impact Workout – As the name implies, with an elliptical trainer your lower body moves in an elliptical motion.  Your foot never lifts off the pedal as your make your stride, consequently there is very little impact or shock to your body.   It is almost like you are running in the air.  Consequently you avoid the relentless pounding to your joints and your lower back.

 

The downside is that your lower body follows a repetitious that can limit the benefits from this cardio workout.  Although you can crank up the resistance, and you can reverse the motion, allowing you to target different muscles.  Furthermore, many models have the ability to adjust the incline, similar to the incline feature on a treadmill.  This also allows you to target additional muscles groups while intensifying your cardio workout.

 

Upper Body Workout – A further benefit of an elliptical trainer is the fact that you can simultaneously workout both your upper and lower body.  There are few exercises that allow this “cross training”. For many, this is a very important feature because they tend to focus on a cardio workout that only exercises  the lower muscles.   Neglecting the other half of their body.

 

With the use of moveable handlebars that move in coordination with the elliptical stride, you body works a variety of upper and lower body muscles.  Studies have shown that this dual action can burn calories more efficiently and in less time.  However, it is important that during your workout you  put a concerted effort into the resistance of the upper body.  Many users exert most of the action through their lower body, letting their upper body just go through the motions.

 

Not too many years ago when you went to your local health club the majority of cardio equipment were treadmills.  These days you will probably find an equal number of treadmills and elliptical trainers.  In addition, you will find many of the elliptical users are part of the baby boomer generation.  Elliptical trainers are allowing people of all ages to continue an aggressive cardio workout while reducing the stress and strain to their body.

 

Author Bio: Fred Waters has worked in the fitness equipment industry for the last 17 years.  He provides elliptical trainer reviews and recommendations at  www.fitness-equipment-source.com, where you will also find a buyer’s guide designed to make you an educated crosstrainer consumer. One last note, it is recommended you avoid cheap elliptical trainers, models under $500.  They typically are not very durable and have a tendency to be unstable, especially for overweight individuals.

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Vibrams Five Fingers: Friend or Foe

 

In 1960, Ethiopian Abebe Bikila won the Olympic Marathon in bare feet. Three decades later, Ken Bob Saxton completed his first barefoot marathon in 4:12. Still, it wasn’t until 2009 that barefoot running became a hot topic.

 

The biggest contributor was Christopher McDougall’s book “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.” Which has now left us with a huge debate about the pro’s and con’s of minimalist shoes used for exercise. I love how passionate people get when commenting about these shoes. Here are few little facts I should start off with; there are different varieties of minimalist shoes for hiking, yoga and running, Vibrams are not the only brand, avid barefoot runners really do not consider minimalist shoes “barefoot running”. There, now that we got that out of the way, let’s start with the con’s (or alleged con’s) of these shoes.

 

Cons:

1. They were conceived to help the #1 issue for barefoot runners which was to protect the foot from hard surface injuries, nails, glass, hot asphalt, etc. however, they may not be protective enough.

 

2. Many orthopedic doctors feel these type shoes are not the best choice for heel strikers due to lack of cushion as well as other problems like high arches.

 

3. These same doctors also feel these shoes are not meant for high impact activities where more cushion should be available and ankle support.

 

Pros:

1. The foot will learn to due what it was naturally meant to do. With more than 200,000 nerve endings, 33 major muscles and 19 ligaments the foot sends messages to the brain to help strengthen these muscles and regain proper balance and alignment.

 

2. Promotes proper striking of the foot on the surfaces. Cushioned shoes tend to encourage heel striking while minimalist shoes allow for the weight to be distributed on the ball or mid-range of the foot.

 

3. Due to the “strike point” being near the front or mid part of the foot, it is suggested that less stress is put on the joints causing less injury. (Conclusion based on a study by Harvard University on 68 young, healthy runners of mixed gender. Participants were evaluated by a motion analysis machine while running in both shoes and barefoot. 54% average increase in the internal rotation torque of the hip, and a 36% increase in the bending forces of the knee when using running shoes).

 

So obviously, the debate goes on, and the question is have you been sold yet? And if the answer is yes, here are a few things to consider:

 

1. Start slowly. As you begin, you will probably notice soreness in your feet & calves as this is a new exercise for many of the new found muscles. This change in foot gear (or lack of) may take months to a year or more to finally get used to.

 

2. Wearing minimalist shoes, is NOT the same as going barefoot. As close as it comes to mimicking being barefoot, anyone who runs barefoot will tell you it’s not the same. The sensors on the bottom of your foot are still unable to reach their full potential. However, for most people who want the protection from the hot asphalt, glass, etc. it just may be the answer.

 

3. If you know you have a major injury, disability or are extremely overweight you may want to check with a physician before wearing minimalist shoes as they may cause further damage to your injury or create an injury.

 

While Vibrams may be the most popular name on the market new minimalist shoes are popping up all over such as Vivo Barefoot, Nike Free, Fila Skele-toes, New Balance just came out with it’s Minimus Collection and in March Merrell launched it’s Barefoot collection. Be sure to try on a few and see which brand and style agree with your foot and particular needs.

 

Intrigued by the barefoot/minimalist concept and want more information? Try some of these great websites:

http://runningbarefoot.org/

http://barefootrunninguniversity.com

http://runnningbarefoot.org