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Fitness tips, motivation and the inside scoop at Beachbody

  • Look Your Best for New Year's Eve—
    Tips from a Celeb Designer
  • Just Say No to Dodgeball
    (Curing Childhood Obesity, Part I)
  • Tip of the Week: Pre-Workout Eating
  • Recipe of the Week: Holiday Niçoise Salad
  • New Year, New You! Win Cash and Other Cool Prizes!
  • WOWY on January 1, 2005!
  • Do You Have a Good Post of the Month?

"This generation of kids is the first in 100 years to have
�a lower life expectancy than their parents."

Ken Reed, on the childhood obesity epidemic in America

Just Say No to Dodgeball . . . and Other Ways to Cure the Childhood Obesity Epidemic, Part I
An interview with PE4life's Ken Reed

By Denis Faye

"The vast majority of schools would probably still fit
into 'old school PE'— that is, if they even have PE.
Some schools have dropped it altogether. There are
even districts across the country that are building
new schools without gyms."

The folks at PE4life travel a hard road. The not-for-profit organization, founded in 2000, is trying to change the country's mind-set about PE (physical education class)—a country that's getting fatter and less fit with every generation. With over 25% of American kids considered obese, and the sales of Xboxes and PlayStations, or whatever, soaring, today's youth aren't exactly following the Pied Piper of daily exercise. Furthermore, their parents come from a generation in which only an elite few actually benefited from taking PE classes. The rest of us were little more than dodgeball fodder, so why should we make our kids endure that torture all over again?

We shouldn't, and that's why PE4life has developed the "New PE," a model for physical education that promotes individual achievement, not mass slaughter via a hard, rubber ball. PE4life helps schools win federal Physical Education for Progress (PEP) grants and then use that money to create a positive, healthy system where gym class benefits one and all.

Ken Reed, PE4life's Director of Marketing and Director of the Center for the Advancement of Physical Education (CAPE), took some time to talk to us about his organization and the solutions they offer.

Beachbody: Tell us about the state of youth fitness in America today.

Ken Reed: It isn't good and it's getting worse. Physical activity levels have dropped dramatically in the last 25 years and we believe there's a direct link there to childhood obesity, as well as a dramatic increase in type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol levels in children.

There's a variety of reasons for it. There are safety reasons in terms of parents driving their kids to schools now instead of kids walking or riding bikes. The same goes for after-school activities. Kids don't ride bikes to Little League practice anymore. They hop in the minivan. Safety concerns also keep kids from playing in the front yard or in the street. And then you've got the phenomenon of video games, DVDs, and TVs and all those things that keep kids indoors. And you've got the decline in physical education programs at the same time.

BB: Why do you suppose PE's on the decline?

Again, you've got a variety of reasons, but it's primarily because of budget problems in schools. Also, the focus is on the educational assessment test that almost every state has due to No Child Left Behind and other factors. It's become the scorecard for administrators and teachers. The focus is on reading, writing, and arithmetic. Parents are also picking up on the state assessment scores as their scorecards on how their school's doing, so they put more pressure on schools to focus on those areas. Something's got to give, and it's usually PE, music, and art classes.

BB: Would it also have something to do with the stigma PE has, that a lot of parents remember PE as being pretty medieval?

KR: That's a good point. There is that stigma with a certain percentage of the population and some of those people end up on school boards or as administrators. They recall what we call "old school PE," where the coach comes out with a clipboard and whistle and it's all about calisthenics and picking teams for competitive sports and dodgeball. We believe in a "New PE." The PE4life way is focusing on physical fitness, not team sports. We'll have team sports, but people will play on small-sided teams—3-on-3 basketball instead of 5-on-5, and 4-on-4 football and soccer instead of 11-on-11, so you get all kids active and moving. You get kids on all the positions, instead of the athletes playing quarterback and receiver and the other kids standing on the line of scrimmage.

The big thing about the PE4life way that's really transformed physical education is technology, in terms of pedometers and heart rate monitors. Our kids put on these heart rate monitors and you can see clearly when they're in their target heart rate zone and when they're not. It's an equalization process. Even the least athletic kids in class can get an "A" based on effort more than outcome. If they're working hard enough to be in their target heart rate zone, they get an "A" whether they finish the mile run in 8 minutes or 13 minutes.

It's really helped kids who aren't athletically inclined feel good about themselves and not so stressed out about PE. If you visited one of these schools, you'd be amazed. They have high ropes courses, wall climbing, just a variety of things. These kids love it. They run in, grab their heart rate monitor off the wall, and put them on as fast as putting on their old uniforms.

BB: Tell us more about the use of heart rate monitors.

KR: These kids get reports at the end of the semester on what they need to do to keep their fitness levels up. Their data is downloaded the day after class. There's nutrition advice in there. It's a nice, customized report that the kids and their parents can get about their fitness.

BB: Speaking of nutritional advice, why do you think it's the decline in PE and exercise that's causing the problem more than super-sized meals and unhealthy eating in general?

KR: There are some studies that have come out in the last year or so, for example, one study that was in The Lancet medical publication. I don't have it with me, but the gist of it was that over that last 25 years, caloric intake in toddlers and young kids has gone up three or four percent, but the level of physical activity has dropped nearly 20% to 25%. Same thing with a study out of San Diego on teenagers. Calories consumed have gone up only slightly in the last 25 years. Activity levels have dropped dramatically.

We believe that the primary cause of the childhood/teenage obesity epidemic is more the lack of physical activity despite the public perception that it's more nutrition and the super-size mentality.

BB: Calories aside, the quality of the food in school lunch programs has suffered. Surely that would be part of the problem as well.

KR: It is part of the issue, and it's more than just the quality of the food in terms of obesity, but energy levels as well. Even with the diets kids are getting in schools, if the kids were more active, they'd be better off.

Part of the problem too is focusing just on weight or body mass index. Fitness levels are much more important than body weight. There are some really skinny kids in our schools that look like they're healthy enough, but they can't run 100 yards without being too winded. So it's important to go on fitness criteria and not body weight.

BB: How do you think the fitness level of our kids is going to affect our country as a whole?

KR: Well, there's an article I was quoted in recently about how the country's decline in fitness levels, of adults and children, is negatively impacting productivity. This generation of kids is the first in 100 years to have a lower life expectancy than their parents. Fitness levels, as well as health issues like diabetes and high blood pressure, are much worse trend-wise than we've ever seen with teenagers and young children. The economic cost just in terms of health care costs is going to be dramatic. Then, when you factor in the loss in productivity, it's really going to be dramatic for our country if it's not turned around.

BB: How many schools across America are using the "New PE" and how many are still using "old school PE"?

KR: The vast majority of schools would probably still fit into "old school"—that is, if they even have PE. Some schools have dropped it altogether. There are even districts across the country that are building new schools without gyms.

PE4life has three what we call "PE4life institutes" that are exemplary model programs in working schools that fit all of our philosophies and criteria—high school, middle school, and elementary school. What we do there is train the trainers. We bring in communities because with the budget problems in high schools, you can't just bring in PE teachers or principals and expect much change. We encourage community teams of 5 to 10 people, including PE teachers, administrators, school board members, hospital administrators, civic leaders, and business leaders to come in and see one or two days of training, to see what's possible, and see how to make it a reality with fundraising and things like that. They go back out and incorporate what they've learned into PE4life programs.

I don't have the exact number of schools and kids impacted. We're in our fourth year and I know we've had people from 26 or 27 states and four or five countries come to our institutes.

End of Part I. Read Part II in the January issue of Beachbody News. Here's a sample of what's in store:

KR: You hear this old line about sports building character and being good for kids. My thought was, if that's true, why are we just focusing on the elite athletes? I started doing research on the decline of intramural sports—they've almost gone the way of the dinosaur.

Look Your Best for New Year's Eve—
Tips from a Celeb Designer

By Lena Katz

The New Year is right around the corner—and you know what that means: New Year's Eve. The biggest party night of the year. All around the country, women are putting on their sexiest, showiest dresses and heading out on the town to dance and flirt the night away. Even if you're staying home, there's that midnight kiss and champagne toast to look forward to. And everywhere you look—in the clubs, the restaurants, and on the TV screen—there's a babe in a little black dress. You'd much like to join their ranks . . . but you're feeling a little nervous about rocking your new, improved curves in front of an audience of your peers.

Best believe, you're not alone.

Even the most genetically blessed gals struggle to find that ever-elusive perfect frock: one with a skirt that's neither too long nor too short; a bodice neither too tight nor too loose; and fabric that's neither too shiny nor too dull. It's a true Goldilocks dilemma, revisited on millions of frustrated women in changing rooms around the world.

Rather than leave you to the tender mercies of the wild animals—er, evening wear salespeople—we found an expert to guide you through the satin-trapped, spaghetti-strapped wilderness. Australian designer Leona Edmiston specializes in flirty, sexy, curve-hugging cocktail dresses and evening wear. Though Leona has dressed her fair share of stick-thin models and celebs (Nicole Kidman, Kylie Minogue, and Helena Christensen are just a few), she is among a handful of designers who actually create pieces for real women. You know—those of us with womanly hips and not-quite-flat tummies, and maybe a few extra pounds here and there.

In between fittings and openings, Leona has taken time to answer some of your biggest questions and dress-up dilemmas:

Does any color except black have a slenderizing effect?

If you find basic black a bit boring, Leona suggests you substitute any other dark color—deep blue, forest green, or the plum color featured in her Winter 2004 collection.

What kind of dress can hide my tummy? What styles should I avoid?

"Obviously stay away from skin-tight styles," says Leona. (Hooray! You can breathe again.) Interestingly, she adds that you should also avoid anything with pleats or gathers in the waist. Instead, use diagonal design lines (as in the 'Abigail' dress style) or an empire waist to draw attention away from your tummy and up to your bust. After all, a little bit of bulge in that area is a good thing, right?

I'm not crazy about my upper arms, but I don't want to wear long sleeves. Are there any other sleeves that are flattering?

"Bracelet length or just below the elbow arms are very flattering and feminine," Leona recommends. And here's a hint from us: If you can't find a dress with elbow-length sleeves, a sheer or mesh top over a tank top or cami will do the trick nicely.

What dress style is most flattering if I'm pear shaped?

The wrap is not just for summertime sarongs any more, according to Leona. She points us to the Blanche dress (pictured), which is actually part of her spring collection. A similar dress in a solid color would fit right in at an office party—and best of all, it can be adjusted to fit a J-Lo-esque largesse instead of squeezing it too tight.

How can I make it look like I have a waist?

The straight-up-and-down dilemma strikes all sort of women, from size 18s to size 2s. And while some seasons embrace it, this winter, according to Leona, the nipped-in look is in. To get it for yourself, try a V-neck or an off-the-shoulder cut (hellooo Flashdance!) to create the illusion of wider shoulders. Find a skirt with a flared A-line, or gentle, flowing pleats (or our favorite, the handkerchief hem) that add volume at the bottom—and don't forget, a belted style will always emphasize your waistline.

Can you recommend any form-flattering wraps, shawls, or other fancy-dress outerwear?

Ponchos and pashminas may be all the rage according to some, but that doesn't mean you have to follow the trend. Go with a capelet, advises Leona. For those of you with arm insecurities, a capelet will hide your upper arms while still revealing your décolletage. It's an elegant—but not overwhelming—finishing touch that won't draw too much attention away from the dress itself.

And you do want attention, right? You've worked for it. You deserve it. So, with these tips in mind, go forth, shop wise . . . and be fabulous.

Tip of the Week: Pre-Workout Eating
by Steve Edwards

Eating enough to sustain your workout—what to eat pre-workout—should depend upon the type of workout that you plan on doing: high, moderate, or low intensity; or cardio or resistance. Here are some guidelines for any moderate- to high-intensity workouts, whether they are cardio or resistance, because you will need some carbs in your system if you want to perform your best.

  • Three or four hours before exercising, a large meal is fine (600 calories or more).
  • Two or three hours beforehand, a smaller meal is suitable (400–500 calories).
  • One or two hours before, a liquid meal is appropriate (300–400 calories).
  • With around an hour, a small snack will do (200–300 calories).
  • Try not to eat during the last hour before you begin a workout because it promotes excessive use of blood sugar in the initial stages of your workout.

Recipe of the Week: Holiday Niçoise Salad
(Serves 4–6)

This week's delicious recipe, courtesy of Dulce B., is perfect for those of you looking to add some zest to your salad repertoire. This tasty tandem combines a raspberry vinaigrette with a delectable salad that's packed with nature's healthiest ingredients. Just make sure you've got big enough bowls to make room for all the mouthwatering morsels. So grab a fork, my friend, and experience the Super Bowl of Salads.

Raspberry Vinaigrette (can be made a day ahead)
3 Tbsp. raspberry vinegar
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. minced fresh tarragon
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, whisk together the raspberry vinegar, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper, and tarragon, then slowly stream in the olive oil while whisking to emulsify the mixture.

Niçoise Salad
3 small red-skin potatoes, boiled and cut in half
3 small purple Peruvian or blue potatoes, boiled and cut in half
1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and blanched
2 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
1 pound salmon filet
1 pound mixed baby greens (rinsed)
½ cup Niçoise olives
2 Tbsp. capers, rinsed
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup minced parsley
1 whole lemon, squeezed
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. fresh, chopped dill
Salt and pepper to taste

Chop salmon into four to six filets. Lightly salt and pepper each filet, then brush with lemon juice and olive oil. Sprinkle with fresh dill, and then either grill or broil in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Toss the mixed baby greens with a quarter of the raspberry vinaigrette, then place greens into four to six medium-sized salad bowls—fill each about a third full. Arrange each of the remaining ingredients in its own separate section on top of the mixed greens in a visually appealing festive presentation: the potato halves, tomatoes wedges, green beans, egg slices, olives, capers, walnuts, cranberries, and salmon. Drizzle with the remaining raspberry vinaigrette, then sprinkle with parsley, salt, and pepper to taste. Bon appetit!

If you have a recipe you think is Beachbody material, send it to recipes@beachbody.com. If we publish it, we'll send you a free T-shirt.

New Year, New You! Win CASH and Other Cool Prizes!

Click here to join thousands of members who have posted their New Year's resolutions on Beachbody's New Year, New You! Web site. And while you're at it, you can play games and win prizes, get diet and fitness tips, receive special offers, and much more! Plus, you'll receive a Special Reward just for posting!

WOWY on January 1, 2005!

WOWY™ (Work Out With You) is the amazing online gym that helps you succeed by enabling you to make commitments to work out at a specific time.

There's no better way to kick off the New Year than by joining your favorite Beachbody trainers and other members in WOWY on January 1st at 11 AM PT/2 PM ET. Over 200 people have already signed up for the New Year, New You! group!

Do You Have a Good Post of the Month?

We are always looking for inspiring posts by our Members. If you come across one on the Beachbody Message Boards, send it to us at greatposts@beachbody.com. If your post is chosen, you'll receive a brand new Beachbody T-shirt!

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