Do EasyTone Shoes Really Make it Easier to Tone?

Do EasyTone Shoes Really Make it Easier to Tone?

There is a lot of buzz about the new toning shoes like the Sketcher’s Shape-Ups and Rebock’s EasyTone Shoes.  After all, who wouldn’t want to wear shoes that “burn more calories, tone muscles, improve posture and reduce joint stress”?  Can these shoes really “tone your butt up to 28 percent more than regular sneakers just by walking”, or are these claims too good to be true?

It is not surprising that the research conducted by the sneaker manufacturers found that they do work.  However, these studies were not very well designed because they were not peer reviewed and obviously the sneaker manufactures had something to gain from the positive results that they found.  To put these shoes (and claims) to the test, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) enlisted exercise scientists from the University of Wisconson to conduct some of their own unbiased research.

What did they find?  Unfortunately, the results weren’t as positive and they found that these shoes are no better for toning than regular sneakers.  They state that there is “no evidence to support the claims that these shoes will help wearers exercise more intensely, burn more calories or improve muscle strength and tone.”  So, why do people sometimes feel sore after their first time wearing these shoes?  These shoes do cause people to use slightly different muscles since they have about 1 inch of padding (the same thing would happen if someone is unused to high-heals).  So, until people get used to wearing these shoes they may feel a little muscle soreness, but unfortunately this does not translate into more toned muscles.

Bottom line- there is still no magic pill or quick fix when it comes to diet or exercise.  If you want to burn more calories, the shoes won’t burn the calories for you.  However, if you like the way the shoes feel and they inspire you to move more, then they are a good choice.  If you want to burn more calories on your next walk without adding more time to your routine, try adding hand weights or find a route with more hills.  This will lead to more toned muscles.  Happy trails to you!

Tips to Build Muscle/Gain Weight

Tips to Build Muscle/Gain Weight


The best way to build muscle mass is to participate in a progressive resistance training program.  Muscles need the right stimulation in order to grow, and you need to support that training with an appropriate nutrition plan.  The most important nutrition factor to build muscle mass is to ensure that you are taking in enough energy.  It is often recommended that athletes consume approximately 500-1,000 calories per day beyond their daily energy expenditure when trying to build muscle mass. 

The following are some easy ways to increase your calorie intake without adding too much volume to your diet:

  • Increase the number of times you eat throughout the day.  Try to eat every 2-3 hours.
  • Include drinks that provide calories and nutrients.  Some examples include fruit juices, milk, milk shakes and fruit smoothies. 
  • Include healthy fats such as nuts, peanut butter, olive/canola oil and avocados.
  • Add calories to your food without adding a lot of volume by including syrup, honey, sugar, jam and jelly. 
  • Choose hearty breads such as bagels, pancakes, waffles, thick crusted pizza, and hoagie rolls.
  • Include calorie dense foods such as dried fruit, granola and trial mixes.
  • Use milk instead of water when making hot cereals, cream soups and hot chocolate.
  • Add powdered milk to your milk or yogurt to add extra calories/protein.
  • Nutrition supplements can provide a convenient way to increase your calories if you are having difficulty meeting your needs with diet alone.  Some good choices include sports bars, sports drinks and liquid meal replacements (Carnations Instant Breakfast, Ensure, Boost, etc.)
Winter Workouts

Winter Workouts

February has brought a lot of snow to much of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions this year.  Instead of letting snow stop you from exercising, use it as part of your work out.  The following are some great winter workouts: 

Exercise Calories burned per hour *
Cross Country Skiing


Ice Skating 476
Shoveling snow 408
Skiing (light) 340
Skiing (moderate) 408
sledding 476

*Calorie burned estimates based on a 150 pound person.

So, embrace the season, dress warm (see “How to Dress for Winter Workouts”), get moving and have fun doing it!

Breaking Plateaus

Breaking Plateaus

When trying to lose weight, it is very common to have some weeks where the weight seems to come off quickly and some weeks where you feel like you’ve done everything right, but it doesn’t show up on the scale.  If you have one or two weeks where the scale doesn’t show the work you’ve done, stay calm.  Sometimes our body seems to need to adjust to a new weight before you continue to lose.  However, if several weeks pass and the scale doesn’t budge then you may have hit a plateau.  When this happens, try the following tips:

1.)    Keep food journals.  Writing everything down can help maintain awareness of what you are consuming to ensure you are at an appropriate calorie level.

2.)    Measure food for a few days.  Just naturally, portions tend to grow over time.  What you thought was a cup of cereal, may end up being closer to 1 ½ cups.  These gradual increases in portions can really add up over time.

3.)    Adjust calorie levels.  When we lose weight, our calorie needs decrease.  This is because it doesn’t require as much energy to do your daily activities at 150 pounds as it does when you weigh 175 pounds.  So you may need to make some slight modifications to your calorie goals.  Try cutting back 50-100 calories a day and see if that makes the difference.

4.)    Make sure you are eating enough.  If we don’t eat enough calories, we can end up slowing down our metabolism.  This makes continued weight loss more difficult.  For women, I usually recommend staying at or above 1,200 calories to keep the metabolism running efficiently.  Men will want to stay above 1,600 calories per day.  If you are active, you will need more calories than this.

5.)    Mix up your workout routine.  Our muscles adapt quickly to exercise and become very efficient.  Try a different exercise routine or even doing your exercises in a different order.  (For example, if you usually do cardio and then strength training, try lifting weights first instead.  If you lift weights, do your typical workout in reverse order.)

6.)    Start strength training, if your not doing it already.  Lifting weights strengthens muscles, which ends up increasing your metabolism.  FYI- Increasing muscle mass is the ONLY way to increase metabolism.

7.)    Move more.  Try to walk or move more throughout the day or add an extra work out each week.

8.)    Try eating more frequently.  If you eat three meals a day, try breaking up your eating into 5 or 6 small meals a day.  We burn calories by digesting food.  Therefore, eating regularly throughout the day helps to keep the metabolism up.  Remember that Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

9.)    Drink more water.  Aim for around 8 8-oz glasses a day.

10.) Include low-fat dairy products.  Studies have found that the calcium, a nutrient found in dairy, plays an important role in metabolism.

11.) Get some sleep.  Getting too little sleep can promote the storage of fat in the abdominal region and make weight loss more difficult.  Aim for a minimum of 7 hours.  For most people, 8 hours is even more ideal.

Are You Going the Distance?  Learn How to Plot Your Run.

Are You Going the Distance? Learn How to Plot Your Run.

Have you ever gone for a walk or a run and wondered how many miles you’ve gone?  Or, are you looking to create a running route in your neighborhood to train for an event?  If so, is a great website that is easy to use and helps to determine the distance you are going whether you’re running in the woods or walking down city streets. 
You don’t have to register to plot your runs, you can just click on “Start Mapping”.  However, you can register for free if you would like to save your running routes or track your workouts. 
This website is also great for runners who are looking for upcoming runs and events in their local area. 
Happy trails to you!
How Long Does it Take to Get Fit?

How Long Does it Take to Get Fit?

Last week, I heard an advertisement on the radio for the “4-minute gym” which actually made me sigh out loud.  Yet another company is taking advantage of people by promoting a “quick fix” to make money.  So, when I saw an article this week on “How Long Does it Take to Get Fit?” in my ACE (American Council on Exercise) newsletter, I felt that I needed to write on the topic.

As I’m sure we all know (but may refuse to admit), it takes more than “4 minutes a day” to become “fit”.  But how long does it take to see the benefits of a workout routine?  According to Douglas Brooks, an exercise physiologist in California, the answer varies depending on the type of exercise you are doing.

For strength training, individuals will see improvements in the amount of weight that can be lifted within the first four weeks, but will have to wait around 6-7 weeks to see bodily changes.   To see these changes it is recommended to start with 2 sets of 8-10 exercises (one for each major muscle group).  Weight lifting 2 times per week can give 75% of the gains of lifting 3-4 times per week. 

Cardiovascular benefits may take a little longer to achieve.   According to Brooks, it could take 8-12 weeks of doing cardio 2-4 times per week to get significant benefits.  For optimal benefits, it is recommended to exercise for 30-40 minutes 3-4 times per week.  However, beginners should start off with 15-20 minutes, and may want to start of with movement intervals of 20-30 seconds on a recumbent bike or doing water-based exercises.

Don’t be discouraged or intimidated by the numbers above.  Any exercise is going to provide some benefits and is better than nothing.  However, don’t be misled by the companies that promote quick fixes and make false promises.  If it sounds too good to be true…it is!  The key is to find activities you like, start small and build up over time.  It takes some patience and persistence, but the rewards are well worth it.    

Milk is a Better than Sports Drinks for Recovery

Milk is a Better than Sports Drinks for Recovery

Once again, milk has been found to be the ideal post-workout beverage.  In a study done on cyclists, researchers provided chocolate milk, a sports drink or a commercially available fluid replacement drink after an intense workout.  Four hours later, the men were then asked to cycle to exhaustion.  Those given chocolate-milk were able to cycle 51 percent longer than those given the sports drink and 43 percent longer than those given the fluid replacement drink. 

Researchers from England’s Northumbria University speculate that the differences between the beverages could be due to the type of carbohydrates that are in milk or the fat content in the milk (because the overall calorie content among the beverages was similar).

So, before spending a lot of money on expensive sports drinks, consider milk after your next workout.  Not only can it help improve recovery periods, but it also provides other nutrients, like calcium and vitamin D, that many of us don’t get enough of in the diet.

How to Choose a Sports Drink

How to Choose a Sports Drink

Sports drinks can help improve performance for athletes who participate in endurance sports lasting > 1 hour.  The primary functions of sports drinks are that they help to hydrate athletes, they provide carbohydrate energy and they replace electrolytes lost in sweat.   But with all of the beverages out there, how do you know which one to choose?  The following are some guidelines to help you pick a drink that will meet the demands of your sport:

  • To replenish Carbohydrates without getting an upset stomach, look for sports drinks that are:
    • 6-8% carbohydrate (14-19 gm carbohydrate per 8 oz)
    • A blend of sucrose, glucose and Fructose
    • NOT carbonated
  • Drinks that contain sodium and potassium help to replace electrolytes
  • Choosing a cold beverage of your favorite flavor helps increase fluid consumption.  Beverages that contain sodium also promote greater fluid intakes.  All of which can help you to stay well hydrated.
  • Examples of sports drinks that meet all of these guidelines are Gatorade, Powerade and Accelerade. 

So, now that you know how to choose the proper beverage, you might be wondering how much you should consume during exercise.  Endurance athletes should aim to get 30-60 grams of carbohydrate for each hour of exercise.  A 24oz sports drink that is 6-8% carbohydrate supplies 42-57 grams of carbohydrate.  Therefore, you would want to consume about 20-25 ounces of sports drinks per hour of exercise, and don’t dilute them because they are specifically formulated to meet the demands of sports.

For more information about fluid needs and athletes please see “Hydration for Athletes“.

How To Dress for Winter Workouts

How To Dress for Winter Workouts

Even though winter doesn’t officially start until December 21st, the winter weather seems to have come early this year.  While you know that you can only reap the benefits of exercise if you are consistent and make it part of a year-round routine, the shorter days and cold weather can make it awfully tempting to stay curled up on your couch with a warm blanket.  While this may be a more challenging time of year, proper clothes can make winter workouts both comfortable and fun! 

The key to keeping your body temperature stable in cold weather is to Layer, Layer, Layer!!  This allows you to add or remove clothes as needed so you don’t get overheated or to cold.  There are three layers of clothes that you will want to wear in cold environments:

  1. The first layer is for wicking away sweat from the skin (and yes, you do sweat in cold weather too!!).  This layer should fit snugly against your skin, but should not be too tight.  You will want to stay away from cotton because it holds moisture which will make you feel colder.  Instead look for fabrics such as Polar tech, Gortex, holofiber and polypropylene.  You can also look for the words breathable, dri-fit and cool max.
  1. The second layer helps to insulate.  This layer should be loose enough that there is room to trap air in between layers, but not so big and bulky that it makes it hard to move.  Polar fleece and wool are great materials for insulating.
  1. The third layer is for protection against the elements like wind, rain and snow.  It should be waterproof and breathable to allow sweat to evaporate.  Fabrics that are treated with a coating or laminate are often waterproof.

In addition to layering clothes, also think about covering your extremities.  You lose 60% of your body heat through your head, so don’t forget the hat or headband.  Again polar fleece and wool are the best choices, but look for ones with liners that don’t itch.  Gloves/mittens should also be made of a breathable material that is water proof, and there should be enough space for some air.  Mittens are warmer, but you will have to think about if they allow for the movement needed for your activity.  Ditch the cotton socks if your toes get cold.  Instead try polyester, silk, wool or nylon and make sure that the socks are not so tight that they cut off circulation.

In addition to staying warm, it is important to stay safe.  Buy bright colored clothes and reflective gear when exercising in the dark.  A workout buddy not only makes exercise safer, but he/she can also make exercise more fun and increase accountability.  This winter, use these tips to stay warm, have fun and keep moving!!

Maintaining Motivation to Exercise

Maintaining Motivation to Exercise

Often when people start an exercise program motivation is high.  For the first few weeks workouts may feel new and exciting and there is a determination to achieve a goal.  But after a few weeks some of that excitement wears off, and workouts can start to feel monotonous and too time consuming.  It can become more and more tempting to hit snooze on the alarm clock or go home and relax after work instead of going to the gym.  If this sounds familiar to you, the following are tips to keep your motivation levels up and create an exercise plan that you can stick with:

  • Make sure your exercise plan is realistic. So you started out strong and were exercising 7 days a week for 2 hours straight….but now you don’t even want to think about the gym. Take it back a few notches…instead of working out 7 days, make it 3 and only for 30 minutes. The worst thing you can do is get burned out, and nothing burns you out faster than starting out with an unrealistic workout schedule.
  • Think about what motivated you to start exercising. Was it to be stronger, walk up the steps a little easier, fit into an old pair of jeans or improve cholesterol levels? What ever that reason was, write it down and put it somewhere that you can see it regularly (i.e. write it in your planner, post it on your refrigerator). This will serve as a constant reminder as to why it is important to exercise.
  • Take your focus off of the scale. It takes time for the scale to show you the results you want, so it can be easy to give up in the beginning if this is your primary motivator. Instead, focus on how much more energy you have, how easy it is to carry your groceries into the house or how much your blood sugars or blood pressure have improved. Recognizing these areas of improvement will help you to stick with exercise. Give it time and you will start to notice that your pants are fitting better too!!
  • Add variety to your workout routine. If you are doing the same thing everyday, exercise can feel very monotonous. Try experimenting with new activities (take an aerobics class, try a new piece of exercise equipment, get a new exercise video, etc.). If you like walking, try taking a new rout or finding a nearby hiking path to change things up a little.
  • Pick exercises that you enjoy and think about how to make exercise fun! After you experiment with different types of activities, pick the ones you like the most and stick with them. If you’re exercising indoors, listen to your favorite music or watch a good TV show to make the time fly by. If you’re outside, try to choose a place that offers nice scenery. The more fun it is, the more likely you are to stick with it.
  • Get an exercise partner. Not only can exercise partners make you more accountable, but they can make exercise more enjoyable. The best partner is one who has a similar schedule to yours and who enjoys similar activities. If you enjoy working out with people but don’t have anyone on the same schedule, try taking classes at your gym. A dog can also make a great partner because dogs don’t take excuses.
  • Schedule exercise into your day. People who exercise first thing in the morning have been found to stick with exercise better than those who exercise later in the day. However, if the morning doesn’t work for you, then block off time in your schedule for exercise and make it a priority. If you plan to exercise after work, it is often better to pack a bag and go to the gym before you go home. Energy levels and motivation tend to go down towards the end of the day.

While motivation can be helpful and make things seem easier, it is not a necessary part to a workout routine.  In fact, motivation often seems to come and go in waves.  When motivation levels seem low, tell yourself that you just have to get through that day’s workout and have faith that something will come along to increase motivation in the near future.  Next, review the above information to see if there is something you can do to help put the next wave of motivation into motion.  Not everyday will be easy, but the longer you stick with it the easier it gets!

Motivation is what gets you started.  Habit is what keeps you going. ~Jim Ryun