My new standing desks

CBC came to visit Dr Jamie Burr and I last week to chat about our study on standing desks.  During that chat they asked to see my new standing desks, which can be seen in the video below (email subscribers can view them on the blog).

One is called a Varidesk, and sits on top of my regular desk.  The other is called a Stand Stand, and is basically just a small platform that can be used to elevate a laptop.  The Varidesk is obviously a much more robust option, but I’ve been happy with both so far; I use the Varidesk as work, and the Stand Stand at home while I work on my laptop.  I’ve only had them for a few weeks, so I’m interested to see if I am still keen on them in a few months time!

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Participants needed for standing desk study in Charlottetown, PEI

Researchers at the University of PEI (myself included) are running a study on the health impact of standing desks.  Our first cohort of participants recently completed the study, and we’re now recruiting a new batch of participants.

If you live in the Charlottetown area (or know someone who does) and work a desk job, we’d love to include you in this study.  Participants in the experimental group receive a standing desk for 3 months, which is a great opportunity if you’re considering trying one out.

To get involved email upeiexerciselab (at) gmail (dot) com, and Brittany will be in touch.

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What is the best/worst advice a personal trainer has ever given you?

I need your help, dear readers.

This semester I am teaching a course on Exercise Testing and Prescription for undergraduate Kinesiology students. At the end of the course students will be eligible to challenge a national exam to become CSEP Certified Personal Trainers (the professional designation for personal trainers in Canada), and I’m trying to make the course as useful as possible for students who choose to go that route.

This is where you come in. I’ve heard lots of horror stories in the past from people who have received absolutely terrible advice from their personal trainers.  And I’ve also heard stories of people who absolutely love their personal trainers, and have seen great benefits as a result of their training.

In class we’ll be talking a lot about ideal ways of working with clients, but I’d really like to bring in some stories from the client perspective.  If you have had a personal trainer, did you find it to be a positive experience?  Why/why not?

Did they give you excellent advice?  Did they consistently fail to provide you with an actual training plan?  What made you want to leave/stay with your trainer for a long time? I would love to hear all of your thoughts in the comments section below, or via email (saunders dot travis at gmail).

Please leave out names of the trainers/gyms, and you can even omit your own name if you choose to do so (the comment box requires a name and email address, but they need not be real ones).  Any thoughts on what your trainer did to make working out a good/bad experience would be extremely useful to both me and my students.




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3 Awesome Science/Health Books To Read This Holiday Season

I know that I’m a little late to the game on the whole “gift guide” this year.  Last week I covered what *not* to buy your kids (a screen-based device), earlier this week I covered how to stay active with a baby (a Chariot stroller), and today I thought I’d give some suggestions on the best science and/or health books that I’ve read in the past year (in no particular order).

1. The Sports Gene

The Sports Gene

Written by David Epstein of Sports Illustrated, this book covers all of the many factors that contribute to elite athletic performance.  It covers training (Epstein takes a *lot* of swipes at Malcolm Gladwell’s idea that it takes 10 000 hours of training to become an elite performer), physiology, genetics, ethinicity, sex, you name it.

The book is absolutely riveting.  I normally don’t get all that excited about books on physiology since I spend my days immersed in it, but this book was amazing (the book was lent to me by my colleague Dany MacDonald, and at first I was a bit skeptical, but it was every bit as good as he promised).  Incredibly readable, covering the science but in a way that is very approachable for non-experts, and absolutely fascinating from start to finish.  It was good enough that I assigned one of the chapters to my undergraduate physiology students, and it led to a much better discussion than anything from the textbook.

Perfect for: Anyone interested in the science of sport performance.

2. What makes Olga run?

What makes Olga run?

This book takes a more focused approach, with author Bruce Grierson following 91 year old track sensation Olga Kotelko, recounting her accomplishments and examining the underlying science of aging and sport performance.  This book has less hard science than The Sports Gene, but is no less compelling as it follows how impressive Olga is compared to her peers, and how she almost appeared to improve with age (sadly, Olga passed away earlier this year).

Perfect for: Anyone interested in active, healthy aging.

3. The Diet Fix

The Diet Fix

The Diet Fix was written by the physician and blogger Yoni Freedhoff (disclosure: I consider Yoni a friend, and received a demo copy of the book).  The book explains why “dieting” doesn’t actually work (as many people already know through personal experience), then provides a number of simple techniques to help improve the quality of any diet (keeping a food diary, making sure you include protein and other filling foods in all your meals and snacks, etc).  It also includes a number of simple, healthy recipes (if you’ve read Yoni’s blog, you know that he’s a big proponent of home cooking).

It’s a common sense book for a field (e.g. diet books) that often lacks any kind of sense whatsoever.  I’ve personally recommended Yoni and his book to a number of friends and family, and will continue to do so.  My only critique is that he left screen time until the last two pages of the book (I guess the topic was so important that he had to save it until the very end!).

Perfect for: Anyone looking to have a healthier diet, and especially those people who are easily taken with fad diets.


Category: News | 4 Comments

The demise of Dr. Oz

dr ozWe first came across Dr. Oz back in 2009 when he was on Oprah peddling the weight loss benefits of infrared saunas.

As Travis pointed out, infrared saunas are not a miracle cure for obesity. Nor can they “liquefy fat cells.”

Over the years, Oz has enthusiastically promoted countless “miracles in a bottle” to his loyal viewership, offering new weight-loss potions on a weekly basis. At one time or another green tea extract, raspberry ketones, and garcinia cambogia were all touted as the next panacea for obesity. Meanwhile, those in the medical profession, researchers, and skeptics shook their head in disappointment.

When I was on a tour of the NBC building back in 2011, I was taken to the studio of his show, and was surprised to be the only one in my group of visitors who was NOT an Oz fan (I came for the SNL studio tour, obviously). I had asked the NBC guide about the legal ramifications of a TV doctor promoting health interventions based on folklore rather than scientific evidence. Before the guide had a chance to respond with rehearsed Oz propaganda, a couple of fellow visitors jumped at me with their eyes wild and mouths foaming, yelling out non-sequiturs about  Big Pharma suppressing natural treatments, Oz being a saint, toxins in food, etc.

From this point forward, Oz’s cult-like following continued to grow, as did the ridiculousness of his claims.
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Category: News, Obesity Research, Peer Reviewed Research | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

The Chariot jogging/cycling/skiing stroller is what every parent needs to stay active

The Chariot stroller in its many forms. (Source)

A few months ago my wife gave birth to our first baby.  It’s been a steep learning curve.  As expected, getting much physical activity has been tough at times.

However, the single most helpful tool we’ve had has been our Chariot jogging stroller (disclosure: this fawning review is completely unsolicited).  It can be used as a jogging stroller, a bike trailer, and the wheels can even be swapped out for skis if you want to take it snowshoeing or skiing.

My wife pulling the Chariot on cross country skis.

My wife pulling the Chariot on cross country skis.

See the video below for a quick overview of the Chariot (this is the two-seater version, although I personally have the 1 seater, which is considerably more narrow, which makes it more useful as an actual stroller).
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Category: Miscellaneous, Products | Tagged | 2 Comments