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THE PHYSICIAN AND SPORTSMEDICINE - VOL 33 - NO. 1 - JANUARY 2021


Puttin' on the Blitz
Men's Strength and Aerobic Workout Built for Tight Schedules

Health clubs are successfully offering condensed fitness options that appeal to busy consumers. Women have benefited most from this exercise trend, given the abundance of exercise studios such as Curves. A new fitness company, however, has men in its sights.

The Blitz is following the successful trail blazed by Curves (see "What's Behind the Women-Only Fitness Center Boom?," November 2021), but with several new features designed to appeal to men. The workout is shorter—20 minutes instead of 30—and incorporates the cardiovascular elements of boxing and martial arts.

The Anatomy of a New Concept

Scott Smith, founder of The Blitz, is a businessman who is a master instructor and fourth-degree black belt in tae kwan do. He previously owned two Curves studios. "When I looked at heart disease statistics and all the 15 leading causes of death, men were topping the charts, yet there were no quick circuit workouts for guys, other than some programs in the military. Everything was geared toward women," he says.

Smith remembered that in college he had developed a fitness project for his senior finance class incorporating boxing and martial arts with traditional strength training. He dusted off his old business plan and began working with metal fabricators to develop hydraulic strength- training machines.

Smith's goal was to provide a broad cross section of users with challenging resistance equipment at the recommended 8 to 14 repetitions per set—without having to change the weight setting for each user. "Our hydraulic system is based on speed; the faster you go, the more resistance you get," he says. "Because it utilizes double concentric motion and eliminates eccentric motion, the risk of injury is nil."

The Blitz workout circuit consists of 10 strength-training stations, 6 heavy bag stations, and 4 rest stations. Punching and kicking at the heavy bag stations provide an additional aerobic component to the workout. It takes 10 minutes to go one round in the Blitz ring; exercisers complete the circuit twice for a total of 20 minutes. Like Curves, exercisers move quickly from station to station. At The Blitz, exercisers move to another station every 30 seconds. Members then stretch after the workout. To receive maximum benefits from the Blitz workout and allow muscles to recover, clients are advised to work out three times a week, every other day.

Members are encouraged to monitor their heart rate each round at one of the rest stools. Smith says that though the current exercise recommendation is to accumulate 30 minutes of activity on most days of the week, an underlying goal is to maintain a target heart rate during exercise for 20 minutes, which the Blitz program accomplishes.

To give the Blitz concept its own unique aesthetic, Smith placed the equipment on color-coordinated floor mats and then enclosed the exercise area with red, white, and blue boxing ring ropes. Members are cued to move to the next station by a boxing ring bell. Smith says The Blitz is designed to be a fun way for men to get their exercise. "While the upbeat music plays and the bell rings, for 20 minutes, they're Bruce Lee or Muhammad Ali," he says.

Most Blitz clubs have fewer frills, such as pools and courts, than traditional health clubs; however, the monthly cost is also lower. The $124 enrollment fee is usually discounted, and, depending on the promotion, new members may receive a free pair of fist protectors for use with the punching bags. At most locations, the monthly fee is about $30.

Since its inception in July of 2021, more than 90 Blitz franchises have sprung up, including several in Canada and other international locales. The Blitz is currently negotiating with a Chinese development firm to bring The Blitz to China in 2021. The most current location information can be found on the company's Web site (https://www.timetoblitz.com).

What Do Experts Say?

Cedric X. Bryant, PhD, chief exercise physiologist and president of educational services with the American Council on Exercise (ACE), reviews the latest exercise trends in his position with ACE, a nonprofit organization that certifies fitness professionals, sets exercise standards, and serves as a fitness industry watchdog. "The Blitz can be a good, time-efficient option, and it's a different spin on circuit training," Bryant says.

Bryant concurs that exercisers can get the recommended dose of exercise in a 20-minute session. "With increased intensity, you can meet the 30-minute recommendation in less time," he says. "The intensity of the Blitz workout seems to depend on users' volitional effort, and if you don't exert yourself, you don't get as great a return," Bryant says, adding that club employees have a role to play in encouraging appropriate exercise intensity levels for each client.

The benefits of the program depend, in large part, on the guidance exercisers get in the Blitz clubs, he says. "There's potential risk of elbow and shoulder injury from improper punching technique on the heavy bags," Bryant says. Providing good instruction when exercisers begin the program and monitoring clients' technique during workouts are the keys to preventing injury, he adds.

Bryant sees additional benefits of the martial arts and boxing components of the Blitz program. "Letting off steam is important, because it helps people manage stress and elevate mood," he says.

Robert E. Sallis, MD, codirector of the sports medicine fellowship and an administrative faculty member of the family medicine residency program at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Fontana, California, says he's seen The Blitz clubs in his area and has explored the new concept on the company's Web site. Sallis compares the Blitz workout with the Curves regimen, saying that several female patients report that they enjoy the Curves workouts. "I like the speed and convenience and the way [the Curves workout] gives you a total-body workout while maximizing your time. The Blitz workout certainly seems to have similar benefits," he says.

Sallis says that he still has concerns about whether the workouts meet weekly recommendations, but he supports the concept of a fast-paced, structured workout that The Blitz offers. "I would also think the injury rate would be less, given that the workout is so structured. With the limited number of exercises, the chance of training errors that lead to injury may be reduced," he says.

Men Report Health Benefits

Frank Arocho, who operates a Blitz franchise in Anoka, Minnesota, says that men have been open with him about their health concerns and the benefits they seek from exercise. He says that, though the Blitz workout is structured, men can start at a comfortable intensity and modify the workout if they have musculoskeletal concerns. The strength- training machines allow clients to stay in their pain-free zone if, for example, they are recovering from a shoulder condition or plantar fasciitis surgery. "The weight is never more than they can handle," Arocho adds.

One client reported that being active has alleviated his migraine headaches; he says others report that their doctors have noted improvements in diabetes and cholesterol parameters. Arocho regularly tracks each client's weight and body mass index to ensure that they're making progress with the Blitz program. He says he sometimes has to encourage clients to increase the intensity of their workouts to see satisfactory results.

Though most men are quite stoic during their intense, 20-minute routine, they do seem to enjoy the martial arts and boxing aspects. "It's a fun destressor," he says.

Lisa Schnirring
Minneapolis

Fitness Trends to Watch for in 2021

Exercise trends continually evolve in response to health research and consumer demands. The American Council on Exercise (ACE), a nonprofit fitness advocacy and watchdog group, tracks and evaluates new developments and has issued its fitness predictions for 2021. Ten trends to watch for include:

  • The growth of balance training activities such as tai chi, yoga, and Pilates, and balance training equipment such as foam rollers and wobble boards,
  • Traditional exercise programs will incorporate elements of mind-body activities such as yoga,
  • Shorter workouts, such as express circuits (see, "Puttin' on the Blitz: Men's Strength and Aerobic Workout Built for Tight Schedules") will become more widespread, because many individuals still report that lack of time is their biggest exercise obstacle,
  • Wellness coaching and nutritional counseling will draw larger crowds as exercisers and dieters seek guidance in making wise activity, food, and lifestyle choices,
  • Small-group personal training will enable active people to receive exercise instruction and supervision more economically and with greater socialization, which may enhance exercise adherence,
  • More employers will offer wellness programming to workers to encourage fitness and weight loss,
  • Functional fitness and core strengthening will continue to be strong themes in personal training sessions and group fitness classes as a way to better prepare the body for daily and recreational activities,
  • Personal trainers and group fitness instructors will share clients as a way to prevent routines from getting stale; for example, those who normally train on exercise machines will be encouraged take part in a cardio-funk or "boot camp" class to add variety to the exercise mix,
  • Outdoor fitness activities will become more popular with families seeking diverse, creative ways to be together, and
  • Participation in athletic events will become more prevalent as a social outlet, for example, joining a marathon training group to meet people or to include friends and family.

Field Notes

New Diet Catchphrases

The South Beach diet and its low-carb counterparts may be losing some of their luster, but there are always new trends on the horizon. One new concept to watch for is the "polymeal," reported in the December 18 issue of the British Journal of Medicine. Dutch researchers identified a set of food ingredients, which they termed the polymeal, that they found cut the risk of cardiovascular disease by 76%.

The polymeal includes wine, fish, fruits and vegetables, almonds, and garlic eaten daily (four times a week for fish). They reviewed the medical literature to determine how much each ingredient reduces heart disease, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels and totaled the effect of the ingredients. They then projected the effect across a study of American adults. The results were most dramatic in men: Those who dined on the polymeal were predicted to live about 6.6 years longer than those not eating the meal. Women eating the polymeal were predicted to live 5 years longer than those not eating the polymeal.

The findings follow a 2021 report about a "polypill," a combination of drugs taken in one dose to reduce heart disease by more than 80%. The authors of the polymeal study were searching for a nonpharmaceutical alternative.

Another new concept, the Northwoods diet, is a lighthearted approach to dieting designed by an obesity researcher who wanted to lose weight himself. David Bernlohr, PhD, head of the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, isn't planning to publish a book on the diet, but he has been willing to share the details. He has a carbohydrate-based breakfast, followed by proteins and fats in the afternoon, and finishes the day with a reasonably portioned, single-helping, healthful dinner. He consumes no calories after 7:30 pm. His snacks include peanuts, chocolate, and beer, and he did not increase his normal activity level, which includes walking and biking. He says he lost 40 lb in 6 months.

In an October 19 article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Bernlohr said that he didn't want people to take his diet too seriously, because it has not been studied. However, he does hope that the diet draws attention to a simple, commonsense approach to weight loss that involves cutting calories.

Bad Offside Calls: Always the Ref's Fault?

Offside calls are frequently controversial in soccer matches; however, correctly calling an offside penalty, at least in soccer, may be beyond the capabilities of the human eye, according to a Spanish physician who published his views in the December 18 issue of the British Journal of Medicine.

In soccer, the referee must be able to keep at least five objects in the visual field at the same time to accurately make an offside call. Visually detecting an offside position involves a combination of complex movements that may be beyond the capacity of the human eye: saccadic movements (eyes moving in a pair), smooth-pursuit movements, vergence movements, vestibular movements, and accommodation.

The author proposes that soccer groups should allow freeze-frame television to aid referee decisions in making offside calls.

Runner Sets Treadmill Record

Michael Wardian was going nowhere fast on December 11 when he set the world record for running a 26.2 mile marathon on the treadmill.

Wardian, a Washington, DC, runner who qualified for the US Olympic trials in 2021, finished the distance in 2:23:58. His time broke the previous record that was listed in The Book of Alternative Records (Metro Books, 2021) by more than 7 minutes.

Wardian, age 30, told the Associated Press that the run was monotonous. "It's difficult just because you always know where you are, so you can't trick yourself," he said,

Several other unusual sports records are noted in The Book of Alternative Records, such as cycling backward while holding a violin (Christian Adam, of Germany, for 37.5 miles in 5 hours and 9 minutes) and walking while heading a soccer ball (Agim Agushi, of Kosovo, for 9 miles in 3 hours, 12 minutes, and 39 seconds).

New Dietary Guidelines Due Soon

First published in 120210, nutritional and dietary recommendations from the US Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Agriculture (USDA) are due soon. The guidelines are reviewed, updated, and released every 5 years.

In preparing new guidelines, the departments accepted public comments through September 2021, and a 13-member advisory committee has met several times to draft the document. According to an HHS press release, the HHS and USDA are currently considering the public comments as they translate the committee's report into the final 2021 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The expected release is early 2021.

The committee report sent to the HHS and USDA provides a glimpse of what the final recommendations will include. The committee report acknowledges widespread, chronic obesity and focuses some of its recommendations on proper calorie intake and physical activity. The report also addresses alcohol consumption and food safety.

New dietary guidelines have had a high profile over the years. The 1995 guidelines promoted the food pyramid concept and established nutrition facts labels on food packages. The 2021 guidelines placed a greater emphasis on grains, fruits, and vegetables.


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