The Outside Blog

Dispatches : Fitness

Toning Clothes: Not a Perfect Fit

In April, New York University medical students won $75,000 in an entrepreneurship competition at New York University's Stern School of Business. The startup judges deemed worthy of the investment: a clothing company called Skinesiology, which “offers functional fitness apparel that resists movement to help people tone muscle and burn extra calories during everyday activities.”

The 75G check was made out on 4/25/14, making it clear that this is neither an April Fool’s joke, nor 2010. Which brings us to a segment Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler first popularized on Saturday Night Live: Really!?

Really!? In 2010, Reebok’s EasyTone shoes were killing it. According to DailyFinance, the company generated an estimated $1 billion in revenue from global sales of sneakers the company claimed would work women’s glutes 28 percent more, and their hamstrings and calves 11 percent more than wearing regular shoes.

Other sports brands put out their own “toning” kicks as well. Fila had Sculpt and Tone sneakers. Skechers made Shape Ups. The world was crazy for gear that made doin’ your thang i.e. walking to the store, standing in a meeting, etc. a calorie-incinerating workout.

“Body toning apparel is a natural progression of the recent successes in the toning footwear market,” said Jon Epstein, President of Fila USA in a press release from October 2010. That’s when Fila announced the creation of its Body Toning System, or BTS clothes. The company was careful not to make any quantifiable claims, stating simply that “BTS apparel is designed to increase muscle exercise which improves the efficiency as well as recovery of an existing workout.”

Reebok launched a line of EasyTone clothes around the same time. Then researchers started looking into the toning clothes’ effectiveness.

The American Council on Exercise funded a study looking into Fila’s fluffy promise that a woman could “achieve amazing results in half the time” with Fila’s new $50 Toning Resistance Tight Capri. Researchers threw 16 women between the ages of 18 and 24 on a treadmill and had them walk for five minutes at different speeds while wearing the pants, and again with regular pants. The result? Here’s what ACE Fitness reported:

Although the research showed a slight increase in calorie burn while wearing Fila’s toning capris, in a real-world scenario that boost would be negligible… 

In response to the claims of a 50-percent increase in muscle workouts, the researchers reported that the Fila capris didn’t deliver there either… 

“In order to provide enough resistance to be beneficial, the pants would have to be so restrictive that you wouldn’t be able to easily move. To achieve a 50-percent increase in muscle activation, you’d have to be wearing something akin to a straight jacket.” 

That last quote is from researcher John Porcari. On the up-side, Porcari’s fellow researcher Alexa Kleingartner told ACE, “I wouldn’t recommend buying them to make a difference in the effectiveness of your workout, but the extra compression and tightness may give you a butt lift and a better shape.” If looking good makes you feel like working out, that’s a plus. The pants, in other words, were like Spanx you could show off; they’d make you look skinnier, but they wouldn’t actually make you skinnier.

(Another study found that toning pants increased calories burned while walking up a 5 to 10-percent grade because the clothing resisted hip flexion. But that study was partially funded by a toning clothes company, making it difficult to take seriously.)

Meanwhile, ladies started stuffing their jiggly bits in to resistance pants hoping the clothes would be the miracle companies promised.

Then came the bombshell lawsuit. The Federal Trade Commission fined Reebok $25 million for making false claims about its toning shoes and apparel. The settlement barred Reebok from “making any health or fitness-related efficacy claims for toning shoes and other toning apparel unless the claims are true and backed by scientific evidence.”

Reebok discontinued their EasyTone clothes. Fila doesn’t appear to sell their toning line of clothes anymore either. The closest thing they currently stock is a $35 Chiseled Capri that says it’ll give a “body sculpting boost.”

So really!? NYU medical school students? In Skinesiology’s promo video, the students claim they’ve invented “clothes that work you out!” by naturally resisting the body’s mechanics, “kind of like moving in water which burns up to 50% more calories.” Fifty percent more than what? Sitting on your bum all day?

The video then goes on to state that the “average woman walks 1.5 hours per day, burning 280 calories.” Maybe in New York City? If that were true, nobody would need toning clothes—we’d be infinitely healthier already. According to the CDC, only 21 to 34 percent of US adults walk for 30 minutes five times a week.

But for argument’s sake, let’s say that yes, women walk 1.5 hours per day. That’s how long you’d have to walk, according to Skinesiology, to reap an extra 100-calorie benefit from wearing their tights. So if you’re already walking around a lot, maybe these pants can provide a small benefit. But if they’re as uncomfortable as researcher John Porcari thought they’d have to be to give you a workout, who’d keep them on all day to find out?

Live Science explains that Skinesiology’s claims come from the students’ own lab testing. It’ll be interesting to see what objective researchers find. Have these students stumbled upon a radical new resistance band design that neither Reebok nor Fila’s R&D teams could create?

I hate to lay into entrepreneurial youngsters, but it does seem like you’re repeating the errors of those who have gone before. Please prove me wrong. 

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Sunscreen On a Plate

Summer may seem like the best season for your skin. But under that well-tanned surface, the sun is actually wreaking havoc on your cells.

“When you leave lettuce in the sun too long, it wilts and turns brown because the light is causing oxidative damage. This is similar to your skin exposed to sunlight,” says Elizabeth Johnson, Ph.D., who researches antioxidants at Tufts University. On your skin, the damage manifests in the short term as a red-hot sunburn, but long-term, it can cause cancer.

And while sunscreen helps prevent the light from penetrating, what comes to the rescue once free radicals have taken over? The hero has to come from your plate in the form of antioxidants—like vitamin C, E and beta-carotene—which block free radicals from causing more damage. “Antioxidants float through your blood and amass in tissues, including the skin,” she says. This means when the sun damages your cells, antioxidants are already on the front line to battle damage.

Plus phytochemicals—a nutrient group that includes antioxidants—may ramp up your body’s natural protection systems against cancer-causing damage, adds Karen Collins, registered dietitian, Nutrition Advisor to the American Institute for Cancer Research. In fact, a 2010 study from Tel Aviv University found that participants who follow diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, like that in the Mediterranean region where melanoma rates are extremely low, have lower incidences of skin cancer.

One of the best foods for protection? Tomatoes. A new British study found that people who ate ¼ cup of tomato paste—which offers high levels of the nutrient lycopene—for two weeks saw less oxidative damage. And a 2012 UK study found women who eat a tomato-heavy diet have 33 percent more protection against UV exposure than those who skip the fruit.

But since nutrients all have different functions and interactions, it’s important to eat all colors of the rainbow. “Many phytochemicals manifest as pigments, so eating fruits and vegetables of all colors guarantees that you’re diversifying your nutrient intake and better fortifying your skin,” says Johnson.

The best skin protectors include dark leafy greens, beta-carotene-rich carrots and cantaloupe, and polyphenol-packed berries and citrus fruit. And skip supplements in favor of whole foods. Most phytochemicals are bioactive, meaning they’re most effective coming from whole foods, and the high doses of most supplements can be harmful to your health.

Protection doesn’t occur overnight, Collins adds. In fact, most studies supporting nutrition’s benefit on sunburns or cancer prevention don’t see results until participants have been eating the food for at least 8 weeks, she adds.

Most importantly, there is no better protection against developing skin cancer than limiting your exposure to UV light, Collins adds. And, while a nutrient-rich diet can help fortify your cells, slathering on sunscreen as well will give your skin the best chances to stay healthy.

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Fitness in the Age of the Selfie

Jen Selter has mastered the art of the vanity squat. On her Instagram account, the 20 year old frequently posts pictures of herself assuming the position—in the gym, on a yacht, on the steps of a plane—emblazoned with her handle “@jenselter.” Her habit of fitness motivation has paid off. As one of the social network’s homegrown celebrities, she has amassed 3.5 million followers, a fitness agent, and a photo shoot in Vanity Fair.

Personal accountability has long been a well-recognized tool to help maintain a fitness re-gime or exercise plan. But in the age of the selfie, this time-tested method of personal ac-countability has turned glaringly public. A search of “#fitness” on Instagram yields nearly 39 million posts. In addition to Selter, there’s a whole cottage industry of Instagram fitness celebrities, “Fitblrs” on Tumblr, and a bevy of fitness tracking apps like Runkeeper and Strava that automatically upload your 10K time to your Facebook or track your cycling route in Twitter. 
http://fashion.telegraph.co.uk/beauty/news-features/tmg10649929/fitness-gurus-the-real-stars-of-instagram.html
http://lifehacker.com/the-best-fitness-tracking-apps-for-every-type-of-exerci-1482693352 
We already know that keeping track of workouts the old fashioned way—a notebook and pen comes to mind—has beneficial effects when it comes to sticking to our goals. But posting the details of each and every run, squat, gluten free lunch, or Crossfit W.O.D. can feel a little egregious to those following along. One has to wonder: do all these fitness-themed posts amount to anything more more than an exercise in self-righteous ego boost-ing?
Research suggests they do. The Telemedicine Journal and e-Health found that fitness re-gimes with a social component are more likely to succeed as they “foster motivation, en-couragement, and commonality.” 
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/pmc3000900/
Tiffany Clifford Czajka is a Scottsdale, Arizona, based trainer who says she uses social media as a way to motivate her clients and encourages them to do the same. In her expe-rience as a trainer, she’s found that frequent visual cues of progress really do help people commit to their goals. 
“I often post pictures of equipment—bosu balls, combat ropes—for a sneak peak into the next day’s work out. It helps keep excitement going and I take pictures of [my clients] working out as well to post and tag,” Czajka said. “Pictures speak volumes so whether you post a picture of an amazing before and after or the defined toned biceps that you have worked so hard for, it shows dedication and self confidence that maybe you once did have.” 
For those going after a big, longterm goal or challenge, using social media to document it also has the effect of inspiring others. Writer Anna Brones and Policy Analyst Megan Pon-der started their project ‘Portland to Paris: 1000 Miles’ in January. Each of them have committed to running 1000 miles in the year 2014, despite the fact that they live on differ-ent continents. 
Ponder, who is based in Portland, keeps an Instagram of the project while Brones, who lives in Paris, blogs monthly recaps. The duo feels that the positive feedback they’ve re-ceived from social media is a good sign that they’re adding value of some sort, rather than just over-sharing. 
http://annabrones.com/category/outdoor-environment/1000-miles/
“Every month that I post on my own blog, I get comments from regular readers that I know are following—and they are not people I know in real life,” Brones said. “We had someone on Instagram say recently that she loved the feed and found it really inspiring. That's all I have ever wanted from sharing—to get other people to get after it in their own ways.”
As with any goal, there are bound to be setbacks, such as a month where a knee injury put Brones below her mileage target. But the pair aren’t worried about failing publicly; they say the project is much more about the conversation they’re creating with each other and their followers. 
“Ultimately, I think that sharing our journey can be inspirational to others whether or not we achieve the goal,” Brones said. “This is much more about the process itself.

Personal accountability has long been a well-recognized tool to help maintain a fitness regime or exercise plan. But in the age of the selfie, this time-tested method of personal accountability has turned glaringly public. A search of “#fitness” on Instagram yields nearly 39 million posts. In addition to Selter, there’s a whole cottage industry of Instagram fitness celebrities, “Fitblrs” on Tumblr, and a bevy of fitness tracking apps like Runkeeper and Strava that automatically upload your 10K time to your Facebook or track your cycling route in Twitter. 

We already know that keeping track of workouts the old fashioned way (a notebook and pen comes to mind) has beneficial effects when it comes to sticking to our goals. But posting the details of each and every run, squat, gluten free lunch, or Crossfit W.O.D. can feel a little egregious to those following along. One has to wonder: do all these fitness-themed posts amount to anything more more than an exercise in self-righteous ego boosting?

Research suggests they do. The Telemedicine Journal and e-Health found that fitness regimes with a social component are more likely to succeed as they “foster motivation, encouragement, and commonality.”

Tiffany Clifford Czajka is a Scottsdale, Arizona, based trainer who says she uses social media as a way to motivate her clients and encourages them to do the same. In her experience as a trainer, she’s found that frequent visual cues of progress really do help people commit to their goals. 

“I often post pictures of equipment—bosu balls, combat ropes—for a sneak peak into the next day’s workout. It helps keep excitement going and I take pictures of [my clients] working out as well to post and tag,” Czajka said. “Pictures speak volumes, so whether you post a picture of an amazing before and after or the defined toned biceps that you have worked so hard for, it shows dedication and self-confidence that maybe you once did have.” 

For those going after a longterm goal or challenge, using social media to document it also has the effect of inspiring others. Writer Anna Brones and policy Analyst Megan Ponder started their project ‘Portland to Paris: 1000 Miles’ in January. Each of them have committed to running 1000 miles in the year 2014, despite the fact that they live on different continents. 

Ponder, who is based in Portland, keeps an Instagram of the project while Brones, who lives in Paris, blogs monthly recaps. The duo feels that the positive feedback they’ve received from social media is a good sign that they’re adding value of some sort, rather than just over-sharing. 

“Every month that I post on my own blog, I get comments from regular readers that I know are following—and they are not people I know in real life,” Brones said. “We had someone on Instagram say recently that she loved the feed and found it really inspiring. That's all I have ever wanted from sharing—to get other people to get after it in their own ways.”

As with any goal, there are bound to be setbacks, such as a month where a knee injury put Brones below her mileage target. But the pair aren’t worried about failing publicly; they say the project is much more about the conversation they’re creating with each other and their followers. 

“Ultimately, I think that sharing our journey can be inspirational to others whether or not we achieve the goal,” Brones said. “This is much more about the process itself.”

Read More

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