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Embracing Changes in Fitness

By: Chris Volgraf, CSCS—Senior Exercise Physiologist

As we celebrate Princeton Longevity Center’s 10th anniversary, I wanted to write an article that looked back at the changes that have taken place in fitness and exercise prescription over the last decade.  I often tell patients “…in some cases, what I prescribed in 2002, I wouldn’t prescribe today.”  Who knew what foam rolling was in 2002, that dynamic stretching (not static stretching) improved performance prior to exercise, or that short and intense bouts of exercise were the most useful in making health gains?  Thanks to staying on top of research over the years, these 3 examples (along with many other advances in the field) have made my job easier in getting the desired results from our patients.

In 2003 I was introduced to this long, white piece of foam as it became popular in treating athletes to help increase flexibility and prevent injury (both prior to and after exercise).  Little did I know that years later many (including myself) believe the foam roller is one of the greatest training aids developed over the past 20 years!  I now find myself introducing patients to the benefits of foam rolling on a daily basis. Some of those benefits include increased blood flow to the targeted area, elongating muscle tissue, breaks down tissue density and breaks down the adhesions/scar tissue that develops between muscle and fascia.  It’s even better when a patient already uses a foam roller and realizes the benefits.  I can undoubtedly show them areas of their body they have been missing!

Until about 6 years ago, I would always prescribe static stretching prior to and after exercise.  This study along with a few others highlighted the need for dynamic stretching/warm-up which increases body temperature and heart rate, pliability of the joints and muscles and responsiveness of the nerves and muscles in preparation for physical activity.  It wasn’t so much that static stretching was being thrown out completely; it was simply the timing of static stretching that was changing.  We still prescribe static stretching post exercise to re-elongate the muscles and increase flexibility.

And then there is one of the most important changes in our field…the move from steady state cardio to interval training to help with conditioning improvements (both aerobic and anaerobic), weight loss, body fat and visceral fat reduction, lean mass maintenance and reduction in cardiovascular disease risk factors. As long as the patient is cleared, it is music to their ears that they can exercise for as short as 4-15 minutes by alternating intervals of high intensity with active rest to reach their goals.  Let’s face it, time is of essence with exercise, so decreasing the duration is one of the biggest factors in getting more of the population to exercise. 

I am excited to see what the next decade brings as we at PLC look to embrace the changes that are found in testing and research in all facets of health, nutrition and wellness.  I now challenge you to change the way you look at your health and pay us a visit at the PLC!

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