'Vigorous physical activity both protects against and provokes acute cardiac events,' a prominent authority told health and fitness professionals in Orlando for the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) 10th-annual Health & Fitness Summit & Exposition.

Barry Franklin, Ph.D., FACSM, an expert in cardiac rehabilitation and a former president of ACSM, exhorted personal trainers and other professionals to update their knowledge and question conventional wisdom. "The result," he said in his keynote address, "is better information for you and better care for the clients you serve."

In his characteristic, lighthearted yet provocative style, Franklin said "I do think we have found weapons of mass destruction," referring to Americans' lifestyle of inactivity and poor nutrition. He called the simultaneous increase in calorie intake and reduction in calorie expenditure "the perfect storm" and lamented that "this year, Americans will spend more [money] on fast food than on higher education."

Fitness professionals are a key part of the solution, according to Franklin. He charged them to "Consider increasing the overall activity of the clients you counsel." Franklin explained that accumulating physical activity daily in short bursts-for example, performing household chores or taking stairs instead of elevators-can be equivalent to a single, longer bout of exercise. "Four quarters equal a dollar," he offered as an analogy.

Originally, Franklin was skeptical. "I laughed when I heard this 10-minute stuff, he said. I'm not laughing now." He referred to research by John Jakicic, Ph.D., FACSM and others, comparing the effects of multiple, short bouts of exercise (e.g. 10-15 minutes) with longer sessions. The long-bout exercisers and those who performed repeated short bouts had similar fitness outcomes, while short-bout subjects were more consistent in reaching their exercise goals.

High-risk activities

Though physical activity and exercise clearly aid in preventing or recovering from heart disease, Franklin noted that certain activities carry increased risks for heart attack, especially among habitually sedentary persons with known or hidden heart disease who engage in unaccustomed vigorous physical activity. For example:

- Hunters have demonstrated maximal or supra-maximal heart rates while shooting or when dragging deer carcasses.

- Snow removal can be deadly, particularly for older men. In one study, participants' heart rate and blood pressure after 10 minutes of snow shoveling were comparable to maximal treadmill testing. Their oxygen intake was only slightly elevated, camouflaging the high demands on their heart. Even the use of snow blowers carries significant health risk, especially in early morning when heart events are generally more likely to occur.

AEDs can be lifesavers

Franklin called for widespread availability of Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs), echoing a Joint Position Statement of ACSM and the American Heart Association. "I feel very strongly that AEDs should be part of every health and fitness club," he said. Citing their modest cost (typically $1300 to $1500) and ease of training for proper use, he told fitness professionals, "If you want to be ahead of the game, get an AED and train people to use it. The time from sudden cardiac death to defibrillation is the single greatest determinant of a favorable outcome."

Turning back the clock

Thoughtful regimens of physical activity and proper nutrition can pay off throughout life, said Franklin. "Seventy percent of 'normal' aging is optional," he claimed. "Half of age-related disease can be prevented, delayed or ameliorated." The goal, he explained, is to maintain the health that can help provide better quality of life well into one's later years. "The best predictors of disability," he said, "are smoking, body mass index, and exercise patterns."

Summing up, Franklin urged health and fitness professionals to keep up with journals and to become involved in professional organizations such as ACSM. By taking such opportunities for service, learning and leadership, he told them, "You can break away from the crowd."

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 20,000 International, National and Regional members are dedicated to promoting and integrating scientific research, education and practical applications of sports medicine and exercise science to maintain and enhance physical performance, fitness, health and quality of life.

ACSM would like to thank the following supporters of the 2006 Health & Fitness Summit & Exposition: Amino Vital, Gatorade, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mars, New Lifestyles, PowerBar, Sport Beans, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 6th Dimension Devices, exel, NSF International, Suunto, Thera-Band, Viasys Healthcare, and Yamax.

American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)

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