SAN DIEGO - Flat stomachs, strong muscles and the right fitness equipment top the wish list of callers to "Fitness on Call," the third annual hotline sponsored by the nonprofit American Council on Exercise (ACE) and Family Circle magazine. Although these subjects were the most asked about there was a wide range of interest in fitness issues. The youngest caller, a 13 year old, wanted to know if weight training would stunt his growth while the oldest was a 91-year-old man inquiring about Tai Chi as an exercise he and his wife could do together.
ACE provides callers nationwide with free fitness tips and advice during "Fitness on Call." The one-day, toll-free hotline gives callers one-on-one access to an experienced volunteer staff of 40 ACE-certified fitness professionals, as well as sports medicine doctors, dietitians and physical therapists.
This year’s event drew a record 1,035 callers – more than double the number of calls since the event’s inception. Women placed nearly 80% of the calls; the average caller’s age was 54.
The top five most commonly asked questions during this year’s hotline with answers provided by five of the event’s ACE-certified fitness experts were:
- "What sort of equipment do I need to set up an effective home gym?"
"The golden rule is ‘try before you buy.’ The goal is to find something you like to do because if you enjoy the exercise you’ll be more likely to stick with it. You can get a great home workout with dumbbells (it’s best to get a set that is adjustable or with a variety of weights), an exercise mat, exercise bands and tubing, an exercise bench, and a program of walking or jogging for your aerobic fitness," explains Dan Trone, a San Diego-based personal trainer. "If you’re interested in putting together a more extensive home gym, set a budget and purchase the best equipment you can afford. There is a strong correlation between price and performance/quality in the home exercise equipment market. ACE recommendations include a treadmill, stationary bike, stair stepper, rower and weight station."
- "What’s the best way to get my stomach in shape?"
According to CBS News Saturday Morning Fitness Expert, Bonnie Kaye, "You don't need fancy equipment to do abdominal exercises but you do need to do these exercises correctly and use proper form. Be sure to include exercises for both the lower and side abdominals. Start with 10 repetitions of each and increase the numbers as you become more conditioned. Above all, understand that no amount of crunches will eliminate the fat most of us carry around our midsections. Although crunches are a valuable exercise, your fitness program should include regular aerobic activity, strength training, stretching and a healthy diet."
- "I’ve never lifted weights before. How can I get started on a strength-training program?"
"First, you should consult your doctor before starting any fitness program. Strength training is an essential part of a complete exercise program and can strengthen bone and reduce the loss of muscle that often occurs with age. Studies have shown that strength training also helps with weight control – the more muscle you have the more calories you burn even at rest. Exercise each muscle group at least two times a week with rest between days," recommends Karen Voight, award-winning exercise video star and author. "It’s important to use good form and learn proper lifting techniques. If you’re a beginner consider joining a gym or hiring a qualified personal trainer to come to your home. There are good books and videos out there, but you can’t beat the one-on-one, hands-on help of a personal trainer." ACE offers referrals to its certified personal trainers anywhere in the country by calling (800) 825-3636.
- "How can I get the most out of my walking program?"
Fitness professional Suzanne Nottingham says, "A regular walking program is a great stress reliever and can help reduce blood pressure, increase endurance, burn calories and keep weight down. Experts recommend that you walk a minimum of 20 minutes each day. Once you have reached a point where you can walk a few miles with relative ease, you can start to vary the intensity. Walking hills or increasing your speed is a great way to tone the legs and improve your endurance. Follow each workout with a few minutes of stretches to help improve your flexibility."
- "I’ve heard a lot about supplements – what’s the truth?"
According to San Diego-based Clinical Dietician Linda Gardner, R.D., "When it comes to supplements you can’t always believe everything you hear. Some manufacturers make extraordinary claims, while others, in fact, have the studies and scientific data that show their effectiveness. The FDA does not regulate supplements so there are fewer rules and regulations to keep the manufacturers in check. The average exerciser is unlikely to benefit from expensive performance-enhancing supplements. As for dietary supplements, you should start by eating a healthy, well-balanced diet. Take the time to honestly evaluate your diet. If there’s a need, you should include a multi-vitamin/mineral pill each day – an inexpensive and effective way to help you get all of the nutrients you need."
ACE received a wide variety of calls during this year’s "Fitness on Call" event. Other questions topping the list were related to exercise and weight loss, exercising with various injuries or medical conditions (e.g., fibromylagia and osteoporosis), and seniors and exercise.
Among this year’s oddest calls: "Should I wear a girdle when I do my cardio workout?"; "Can I cut a vitamin pill in half to use later?"; and of course, "Are you a live person or an answering machine?"
Those who missed this year’s "Fitness on Call" hotline may consider ordering a subscription to ACE FitnessMatters. For more information, call (800) 825-3636.
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the benefits of physical activity and protecting consumers against unsafe and ineffective fitness products and instruction. As the nation’s “workout watchdog,” ACE conducts university-based research and testing that targets fitness products and trends. ACE sets standards for fitness professionals and is the world’s largest nonprofit fitness certifying organization. For more information on ACE and its programs, call (800) 825-3636 or log onto the ACE Web site at www.acefitness.org.