Americans Found New Paths to Fitness during American Council on Exercise's National Fitness on Call Hotline Held January 13

Posted: Feb 26, 2001 in

SAN DIEGO--The millennium may have changed, but American’s top fitness questions haven’t. At least that’s what came across during the American Council on Exercise’s (ACE’s) fifth-annual Fitness on Call hotline, held Saturday, Jan. 13, in San Diego, and sponsored by Prevention magazine and The San Diego Union-Tribune.

As in past years, the public wanted to know the basics: how to lose weight, build muscle, flatten stomachs, and start a fitness routine. These were reoccurring themes during the 11-hour, toll-free hotline, but with approximately 950 calls answered, ACE helped people with a wide variety of information needs, including fitness for children, nutritional supplements, exercise equipment, working out with injuries, and fad diets.

Again this year, a majority of callers (70%) were women, but the average age dropped from 54 to 49. As ACE predicted, the numbers of people calling with questions regarding yoga, Pilates, and other mind/body practices increased.

Throughout the day, approximately 40 volunteer ACE-certified fitness professionals, mind/body experts, registered dieticians, exercise physiologists, medical doctors, and physical therapists took calls.

What were the most popular questions? We polled our volunteers to find out, and here are five of the top questions and answers:

Although not always phrased the same way, many callers wanted to know how to get stronger, fitter, better-looking abdominals.

Pilates expert and ACE spokesperson Elizabeth Larkam provided tips specific to her specialty: I recommend you perform specific abdominal toning exercises every day. The exercises consist of muscle contractions that can be performed while sitting, standing, driving, or lying down. As you inhale, expand your torso wide, deep and long, widening the lower part of your lungs. As you exhale, relax your jaw, shoulders and chest. Also, contract your pelvic floor and draw your navel in and up toward the back of your waist. It is as if you are tightening a seatbelt low and tight across your belly, pulling your abdominals in, up and wide. To do this, imagine pulling your sits bones together using the muscles from inside. Hold the contraction for 6 seconds or one breath cycle. Repeat for one minute. Throughout the day, repeat this sequence once each hour. These exercises target the deepest abdominal muscles, which act like a corset, flattening the abdominal area and lengthening the lower spine. When these exercises are done in conjunction with deep breathing, they help reduce stress. She added, During your cardiovascular and strength-training sessions, practice contracting the pelvic floor as described above. This way, every exercise you do will contribute to abdominal strengthening. You’ll feel and look longer and leaner, and you’ll move with more grace.

I’m working out and trying to watch what I eat, but I’m not losing any weight; what can I do?

If your current workout program is no longer effective, there are a few things to try, recommended Karen Voight, award-winning exercise video star and author. First you should increase and vary your cardio workout. When you do the same thing for too long, the body gets efficient and you may stop seeing results. For example, if you regularly walk on a treadmill, try another piece of cardio equipment or a class. Also, make sure to add a strength-training component to your weekly workout. This will build muscle and help raise your metabolism. Lastly, though you say you are watching what you eat, it is easy to consume more calories than you think if you don’t pay attention. It might be a good idea for you to track your exact calorie intake for a few weeks so you will have an accurate reference.

What is the best type of cardio equipment to buy to use at home

Most consumers would benefit by purchasing a treadmill and a stability ball, said fitness expert and ACE spokesperson Suzanne Nottingham. Of course, try and get outside whenever possible for the stress-reducing benefits of having the earth underfoot and wind in your face. When inside, I recommend a treadmill. It’s the most popular piece of equipment because people enjoy the simplicity of walking and running, which means they'll do the activity more! Plus, any person in the household can use the treadmill with relative ease. Also, once you are comfortable on the machine, adding intensity is simple. You can go faster or add an uphill grade. And, the stability ball is my number one pick for home fitness equipment! You can use it for strength, flexibility and balance. I even sit on a ball at my office desk. It promotes spinal health and postural awareness by automatically stabilizing the spine.

How to I start a strength-training program?

If you have no previous strength-training experience, explained fitness celebrity and personal trainer Keli Roberts, I recommend doing a couple of sessions with a certified personal trainer who can develop and teach you a routine that you can do on your own. If this isn’t possible, here are some tips on how to get started. Warm up first for at least 5 to 10 minutes with a cardiovascular activity, such as walking or stair climbing. Train 2 to 3 times per week, with a day of rest in between. Find 9 to 11 different exercises that cover all major muscle groups, and train both sides of your body evenly. Do each exercise 8 to 15 times (repetitions) in sets of 1 to 3. Work from the largest muscle groups to the smallest, and always train opposing muscle groups in the same session (i.e., train muscles both on the front and back of your legs). Always maintain good posture, and keep the spine in a neutral position. Lastly, find a training partner to help you stay committed. If you train consistently, you should see results in as little as 4 weeks.

I've never done yoga before, and I'm not very flexible, so how should I get started?

Mara Carrico, ACE yoga spokesperson and director of YogaLink International, gave the following advice: You don't have to be flexible to start a yoga is for everyone! There are many different styles of yoga, ranging from gentle to vigorous. Many teachers have been influenced by more than one tradition, so investigate to find out which teacher and style are right for you. Consider your own needs and limitations, including present physical condition and what you want from a class (i.e. flexibility, strength, stress reduction). Let the teacher know the state of your health and your fitness level, in addition to your goals. When selecting a teacher, ask for his or her training and credentials and be wary of teachers certified in quickie, weekend trainings. Take classes in different styles until you find one that appeals to you. When in a class, be patient with yourself and don’t force any movement or pose. Appropriate responses to a class should be invigoration, calm, and satisfaction; not stress, agitation, or physical discomfort. Once you find a method that works for you, plan on at least two one-hour classes a week to enhance the benefits and expedite your progress.

All callers who provided their addresses were sent free copies of ACE Fit Facts related to their specific fitness information needs. ACE has published more than 90 different one-page Fit Facts, which are available on the Web at

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

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