Jean-Claude Vacassin – there’s no guarantee you’re doing things right online exercises.
Jean-Claude Vacassin is the Founding Director of W10 Performance, the Professional Fitness Coaching Academy and the International Fitness Business Alliance. He also consults on corporate wellbeing programmes, as well as to personal trainers and other gym owners.
He was recently asked – how much responsibility do online trainers really bear for people copying the workouts they recommend? Jean-Claude Vacassin, is not a fan of fitness via social media or, as he terms it “excer-train-ment”.
“What people see on social media is marketing. Extreme fitness sells, it’s exciting. It used to be that running a marathon was hardcore. Now, that’s not enough: you have to do a multi day ultra marathon. A lot of these online training regimes are aimed at millennials who want to buy on the first click and transform their body on the second – and they push themselves too hard.”
“No one wants to spend eight weeks moving more and eating less these days because, sadly, people don’t believe basic exercise, done well, is going to get them anywhere. There’s this idea that it’s boring.”
He cites the case of a builder who got a deal with a supplement company because he works out a lot and has hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers. “But does that mean he knows what he’s doing? No! He’s a builder, not a personal trainer.”
Vacassin adds: “In our gym, we have gym standards. People undergo an assessment before they get a programme. HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training and complicated exercises under fatigue should not be in 90% of people’s fitness regimes because they don’t have the physical capability.”
“These online accounts trick people into thinking this is easy. No one posts a bad workout. No one posts the workout they missed. No one posts the depression they have when they get injured or the relationships it costs them. All you see is the good stuff.”
Deep squats, lunges, deadlifts and high-intensity cardio are the mainstay of online workouts. “We’ve seen an increase in the numbers of clients coming to us having injured themselves doing online workouts,” he says. “People get hurt largely because the message is: ‘This is what I do and there’s no reason it won’t work for you.”
Extrapolated across the population, that’s not going to be good. While it’s a great thing that people are being encouraged to be active, if you’ve never lifted a barbell and then start lifting 10kg, you’ll put your tissues at risk.”
Part of the problem is in the age differences. “The trainers are usually in their early 20s, but a lot of the people using the programmes are mid to late 30s and 40s. That matters, because your tissues are far more resilient when you’re under 30.”
How your foot strength impacts longevity and 3 exercises
Right now you aren’t running as fast as you could, standing as tall as you should or likely to live as long as you would if you paid more attention to your feet.
Consider this: The medical and fitness communities have known for a while that your grip is a reliable indicator of longevity.
But an emerging field of research indicates the strength of your feet might be an even better measuring stick for your health.
A team of Japanese researchers examined the toe-flexor strength of 1,400-plus men across various age groups. (Toe flexors are muscles like the abductor hallucis, which lets you lift and wiggle your big toe.)
The scientists found they could tell how well people took care of themselves based on the test results.
The data accurately predicted a person’s age, sleep, exercise and drinking habits. They also observed that foot strength started declining at an earlier age than grip strength — and fell off more dramatically than grip strength over time.
That’s bad news when you consider that the muscles in your feet are very much involved with balance control, and that as you get older, falls are a common cause of death. Weak feet and ankles may be holding back your athletic performance right now.
“Foot and ankle strength crosses over into everything you do,” says Dr. Joel Seedman, who trains and coaches high level athletes and regular people. “Without proper foot and ankle activation, it’s impossible to have ideal mechanics on any lower body movement.”
Seedman describes having weak feet and ankles as “a massive energy leak.” If you’re an athlete, that means you’re losing force you could use to propel you forward. “It slows you down,” Seedman says.
The good news? You can be on the road to recovery starting right now.
Just add these three foot exercises to your routine.
They require no equipment and can be performed anywhere, at any time. But adding them at the beginning of workouts fires up not only your feet and ankles, but your entire lower body.
“It’s impossible to get full recruitment of the posterior chain without proper foot and ankle activation,” Seedman says. “Once you start firing the feet and ankles, most people start to feel a huge burn in their posterior chain, because it starts sending better neural signaling all the way up. It even starts affecting your posture, upper body and neck.”
1. Single Leg Stand
This one is as basic as it sounds: Just lift one leg off the ground and balance on the other. You should find that within a short time the muscles in your bottom and along the back of your legs have to fire up to help keep you upright.
No matter whether you’re a marathoner or a hard core Cross trainer, you can benefit from this move. “If I had to throw one exercise out there that’s a cure all for everyone, this would be it,” Seedman says.
If you’re a strength and power athlete, load the exercise by holding a weight for 15–20 seconds. Or if you’re a runner, do these with your bodyweight or just a light weight and hold for 1–2 minutes per side.
2. Ankle Push Outs
Performing ankle push outs is simple. You just do three things: Stand tall; press your big toes into the ground and push your ankles laterally outward. “I’ve seen this do wonders for my clients,” Seedman says. “Often, they can notice the difference within a few days — especially if they’re religious about doing it multiple times per day.”
3. Toe Raises
This exercise is essentially the opposite of a calf raise. While calf raises have you go up onto your toes to work the backside of your lower legs, in toe raises you keep your feet flat on the ground, lift your toes as high as you can, and spread them as wide as you can.
“It strengthens the muscles around both sides of the shins — the peroneals and tibialis anterior — which are basically toe flexors,” Seedman says. “The ability to dorsiflex, or pull your toes back toward your shins, is a critical aspect of foot and ankle function. I see even high-level athletes struggle with this big time.”
Try it and you’ll find the front of your shins might burn faster than you think. You can take the exercise a step further by adding a calf raise and performing the move with weight.
Any polite gym goer will wipe down a spinning bike or weight machine after a sweaty workout to stop the spread of germs, so people should do the same for communal yoga mats.
“If you swab a yoga mat you probably are going to pick up viruses and certainly funguses,” says Dr Seth Rankin, a GP and chief executive of the London Doctors Clinic. “Minor things like athlete’s foot can be picked up in any moist environment, it’s why we wear flip flops in the gym showers,” he says.
A US surgeon – Dr David Anthony Greuner – recently issued a more serious warning by claiming that herpes, a virus more commonly associated as coming from sexual contact, could potentially be picked up from dirty mats.
He says in a blog post: “Making skin contact with a dirty yoga mat covered in germs and bacteria can lead to skin infections, acne, toenail fungus and even transfer of the herpes virus and staph and strep infections in susceptible individuals.”
But GP Dr Rankin insists the risk of catching a more serious infection from a mat or seat is “vanishingly rare” and tells people not to worry.
Sue Millward, Nuffield Health’s lead for infection prevention, who monitors hygiene in its 111 gyms, says staff wipe mats and exercise equipment at the beginning and end of each day. But she says it is impractical for gyms to clean machines after every workout.
“We keep an eye on what’s going on and who’s using equipment,” she says. “If our staff see that somebody has been perspiring a lot and not cleaning they may go round and clean it.”
The best way to avoid getting ill from the gym is to accept that you will be picking up germs during a workout – and wash your hands and kit afterwards, says hygiene expert Dr Lisa Ackerley.
“Don’t get too hung up about it,” says Dr Ackerley, a chartered environmental health practitioner. “Yes, there’s a risk of cross infection where you share equipment, but people do it and we’re not dropping dead from it.”
She says people usually have a shower after a workout – but during exercise, should avoid rubbing their eyes or touching the top of a drinking bottle.
She adds: “Kit can get really smelly, even if it’s being cleaned, because people wash it at a low temperature.” She says a sure fire way to kill germs is to wash clothes at 60 degrees Celsius, or consider using a laundry sanitiser.
She adds: “It’s simple really, after you’ve been on your gym equipment, don’t go and have a sandwich without washing your hands.”
Doing moderate exercise like Yoga and Pilates several times a week is the best way to keep the mind sharp if you’re over 50 new research suggests.
Thinking and memory skills were most improved when people exercised the heart and muscles on a regular basis, a review of 39 studies found. This remained true in those who already showed signs of cognitive decline.
Exercises such as Yoga and Pilates were recommended for people over the age of 50 who couldn’t manage other more challenging forms of exercise, the study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine said.
Physical activity has long been known to reduce the risk of a number of diseases, including type-2 diabetes and some cancers, and it is thought to play a role in warding off the brain’s natural decline as we enter middle age.
The theory is that through exercise the brain receives a greater supply of blood, oxygen and nutrients that boost its health as well as a growth hormone that helps the formation of new neurons and connections.
In this analysis of previous studies, researchers from the University of Canberra looked at the effects of at least four weeks of structured physical exercise on the brain function of adults.
In a variety of brain tests, they found evidence of aerobic exercise improving cognitive abilities, such as thinking, reading, learning and reasoning, while muscle training – for example, using weights – had a significant effect on memory and the brain’s ability to plan and organise, the so-called executive functions.
Joe Northey, study author and researcher from the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise at Canberra, said the findings were convincing enough to enable both types of exercise to be prescribed to improve brain health in the over 50s.
“Even if you are doing moderate Yoga and Pilates exercise only once or twice a week there are still improvements in cognitive function, but the improvements were better the more exercise was done,” he said.
He said people should be able to hold a conversation while doing moderate exercise.
NHS guidelines recommend that adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week and exercise the major muscles on two or more days a week.
Dr Justin Varney, lead for adult health and wellbeing at Public Health England, said any physical activity was good for brain and body.
“Whilst every 10 minutes of exercise provides some benefit, doing 150 minutes a week cuts the chances of depression and dementia by a third, and boosts mental health at any age.
“Doing both aerobic and strengthening exercises leads to a greater variety of health benefits. Physical exercise is one element of improved brain functioning, but not the whole story.”
As well as staying physically active, Dr David Reynolds, from Alzheimer’s Research UK, said it was equally important to look after our brains by staying mentally active, eating a balanced diet, drinking only in moderation and not smoking.
People who cram all their Yoga and Pilates exercise into one or two sessions at the weekend benefit nearly as much as those who work out more frequently, researchers say.
A study of more than 60,000 adults in England and Scotland found that “weekend warriors” lowered their risk of death by a similar margin to those who spread the same amount of exercise over the whole week.
The findings will reassure people who find it hard to make time for a daily yoga or Pilates exercise routine and opt instead to break a sweat once or twice a week in the hope of keeping fit.
“Millions of people enjoy doing sport once or twice a week, but they may be concerned that they are not doing enough,” said Gary O’Donovan, a physical activity researcher and author on the study at Loughborough University. “We find a clear benefit. It’s making them fit and healthy.”
The UK’s National Health Service recommends that to ward off an early death, people should spend 150 minutes a week performing moderate exercise, or 75 minutes a week doing vigorous exercise.
As a rule of thumb, moderate exercise like Yoga and Pilates can be done while maintaining a conversation, whereas during vigorous exercise talking at the same time is too hard.
In the study, those who met the physical activity target by exercising through the week had a 35% lower risk of death than the inactive adults, with cardiovascular deaths down 41% and a 21% lower risk of cancer death.
But the weekend warriors also saw substantial health benefits if they met the physical activity target too. Their overall risk of death was 30% lower than the sedentary adults, with the risk of cardiovascular and cancer deaths lower by 40% and 18% respectively.
“Weekend warriors are people who meet the recommended volume of physical activity each week through only one or two sessions. There are doing a large proportion of vigorous exercise and that makes you fitter than moderate exercise,” said O’Donovan.
The results are based on medical data gathered for 63,591 adults aged 40 and above between 1994 and 2012. Nearly 9,000 of the study participants died in the period.
For those who have resolved to get fit in the New Year, O’Donovan recommends to start with moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, and then to set realistic, incremental goals to boost confidence without running the risk of setbacks due to injury. “A middle aged or older person should do as much as 12 weeks of moderate exercise before introducing vigorous exercise,” he said