A Fitter U Q&A: January 2016

A Fitter U

Another month, another round of answers to fitness questions from the Drexel community.

Joe Giandonato, Drexel's manager of health promotion and resident fitness expert, helps the Drexel community kick off the new year and put everyone's resolutions into high gear by addressing the first batch of questions in 2016.

If you are interested in having your question answered in next month's edition you can submit it here. Those who have their questions chosen are eligible to receive one free month at the Rec Center.

  • "How helpful are devices like Fitbit when it comes to tracking exercise?"

Wearable technology has grown increasingly popular lately, augmenting exercise programs and reinforcing adherence. In fact, wearable technology topped this year's survey of fitness trends.

When synced with mobile applications and various software programs, these nanotech devices capture and synthesize vast quantities of data at a breakneck pace. Now, athletes aren’t the only ones to monitor heart rate, ventilatory rate, heart rate variability and sleep duration and quality.

More importantly, wearable technology can help exercisers stay on track. Participants who used wearable technology to track exercise accumulated a greater amount of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity. Last year, researchers established a link between activity at which the heart rate is sustained within a range of 130-150 beats per minute and reduced all-cause mortality.

The wearable technology market is expected to approach $6 billion. But before you join the flocks of fitness enthusiasts and don a device yourself, consider the following:

1. Purchase devices compatible with your existing set-up, to ensure that operating systems and programs will properly interface with one another.

2. Educate yourself on the device and the metrics it is designed to collect. Need help? Drop by the Member Services desk in the Rec Center during your visit and one of our fitness specialists will help you out.

3. Like the treadmill or elliptical, these devices should be viewed as tools, certainly not a standalone or omnipotent solution to your fitness goals.

  • "As the weather turns colder and wetter, how far should joggers go to adapt to the elements, and at what point should a jogger hang up their shoes and stay indoors?"

Fortunately, we have so far experienced uncharacteristic warmth and have dodged inclement wintry precipitation, but now frigid temps and messy weather seem inevitable. It’s probably wise to take your workouts indoors. 

NOTE: The Recreation Center features an indoor track, which is 1/12th of a mile.

Cold weather invokes a greater demand of the body's thermoregulatory functioning (or temperature regulator), which is governed by the autonomic nervous system. Exposure to colder environments triggers voluntary shivering, non-shivering thermogenesis and peripheral vasodilation to help maintain body temperature closer to its preferred physiological baseline: 98.6 degrees. These heat generating mechanisms are metabolically expensive, robbing the body of necessary muscle glycogen used to power intense workouts.

Cold weather can also compromise respiratory functioning, as the body now has to "warm up" the cold air being inhaled, which slightly delays its delivery to working muscles. One must acclimatize, or adjust to a given climate or weather conditions, before progressing the duration or intensity at which exercise is conducted.

If you insist on staying outside throughout the winter, consider the tips below:

1. Layer your clothing: Layers should include a base to transport moisture away from the skin and disperse it to above layers where it can evaporate (think polyester and polypropylene); a middle layer composed of a thicker or denser material such as wool or fleece to “trap” warm air close to the body; and an outer layer to shield you from the environment, which can include water and/or wind. Extremities should remain covered, especially the head.

2. Extend your warm up: It will take longer to elevate your body temperature and promote blood flow. Double the time it takes you to warm up or involve dynamic activities prior to your jog, which can raise your heart rate up in a hurry. Check out examples of dynamic activities in the 2015 A Fitter U Q&A.

3. Don't forget to fuel up: With increased energy demands occurring in cold weather, you should ingest more calorically dense foods and items that contain greater amounts of carbohydrates prior to, during and following exercise. Hydration status also needs to be paid close attention. If you desire a performance nutrition program personalized to your needs click here.

  • "What are some of the best classes at the Drexel Rec Center for someone who wants to get in shape but is a little intimidated about joining a class?"

All of our group exercise classes, which are offered at no additional charge to members, are appropriate for individuals of all age groups and fitness levels. Our group exercise instructors are adept in modifying curriculum to best suit the abilities of each individual. We offer a wide range of classes, including spinning, yoga, pilates, body pump, zumba, kettlebell, and core conditioning and have recently added barre classes to our lineup. The classes can be taken in conjunction with one another or adjunctively to a personalized fitness program. Information regarding our group exercise offerings can be found here.

Joe Giandonato, MBA, MS, CSCS is the manager of health promotion at the Drexel Recreation Center where he oversees Proactive Health Services, which is notably comprised of Drexel's locally acclaimed personal training program. Members of the Drexel community are extended attractive rates. For more information on personal training and other services, contact Morgan Kilroy, coordinator of Member Services, at mak384@drexel.edu.

Have your own questions? Submit them here and Giandonato may answer your question next month.