Monday, March 7, 2011

Love to Run program aims to increase kids' activity

Too bad this isn't local, but what a great idea!

Anne Turppa wants her daughter running around the block after school instead of racing to the TV.
So 8-year-old Samantha is involved in the Love to Run program, which is training her and other children for the Cellcom Green Bay 2.62-mile mini marathon on May 15. Samantha wanted to participate in the program although she is not very active in her gym class.
"My husband and I want our kids to be healthy, and not succumb to the norm of overweight children," the Green Bay mother said.
The Love to Run program is one of several area after-school initiatives aimed at curbing childhood obesity. About 17 percent of young people ages 2 to 19 are obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A 2008 report by Wisconsin officials found that up to 40 percent of overweight children ages 3 and 4 — and 60 percent of overweight adolescents — are likely to be obese as adults. Studies show these young people also are more likely to develop heart disease and diabetes as they age, among other health problems.
The Love To Run program started in 2008 as a partnership between the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon and the Boys & Girls Club of Green Bay. Nearly 100 children in four schools first took part in the event geared toward students in first through eighth grades.
"It was an opportunity to reach the school and kids to hopefully minimize the problems with childhood obesity," said Stacy Ryan, program director.
The program meets two times a week and program participants receive free entry into the mini marathon.
Now in its third year, more than 25 after-school programs, including those in surrounding counties, provide a six-week training curriculum for at least 500 young people, Ryan said.
But training for only six weeks isn't going to solve childhood obesity and exercise must be a family priority, Ryan said.
"If kids can bring energy into the household, that will hopefully last 365 days a year," she said.
The Love To Run program recently held a training run last week at the Boys & Girls Club's west side location. Jason Schraufnagel, training coordinator, said the mini marathon is less about a race and more about young people meeting a personal challenge.
"It's great to see kids saying, 'My stomach hurts' or 'My legs are sore,' but with a huge smile on their faces," he said.
Elias Phillips, 9, of Green Bay said his body got stronger and he made new friends after running in the program last year. Now he's especially excited because this year's event takes a trip through Lambeau Field.
Dr. Kristina Houn is a Prevea pediatrician and said young people must fit exercise into a daily routine.
"Kids are becoming more and more sedentary, and spending time in front of different types of screens, whether it be TV, games or computers. Finding more structured activities for them to participate in, is always a good thing," she said.
Kids participating in the mini marathon should be no younger than first grade, and they should have adult supervision at the race.
"Probably the worst injury we see is a sprained ankle," she said.
It's important the program builds up to longer distances, especially for training overweight young people, she said.
If the training moves too fast, "they're going to fatigue quickly, get frustrated and not want to do it anymore."
The Greater Green Bay YMCA introduced the "Food and Fun" program this school year, aimed at teaching young people healthy meal options.
"I think gym class and activity time during the school day is cut down, and it's recommended that kids have 60 minutes a day of physical activity," said spokesperson Sherri Valitchka.
About 985 young people learn about healthy eating at 22 sites throughout Brown County, she said.
A chef or dietician teaches children how to make snacks and they learn exercise techniques.
The program ends later this month but the goal is not on weight loss, but for children to learn healthy habits they can take home, she said.
— Press-Gazette

Monday, February 21, 2011

To Stretch Or Not To Stretch

(Reuters Life!) - It makes no difference if you stretch or not before a run, because stretching won't affect your risk of injury, according to a study.

"There is a lot of controversy about this," Daniel Pereles, from George Washington University, told Reuters Health.

"Some insist you need to stretch, others say you don't, and every time I tried to assess a study on this I found that the authors were extrapolating the results from gymnasts or wrestlers or soccer players or other sprinting or short distance athletes, and nothing was related to running.

"I just wanted to know whether stretching before going for a run would be beneficial for recreational runners like myself."

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Running, the iPod, and Hearing Loss

Since my wife got me an iPod Nano some 2 1/2 years ago I have been hooked.  Only recently did I fill up the memory and have begun picking "favorites" with my music out of necessity.  The iPod has been there for most all of my running, in fact until only recently I found it difficult to run any distance without it.  I feel like the iPod definitely keeps my spirits up and helps to pass the time when things get tough on the road.

So when my ear buds went dead (from sweat I think) I felt it was the perfect time to replace them with an upgrade.  Of course in my professional life I am constantly dealing with the effects of my patients' hearing loss, and know about the warnings associated with headphones and loud "leisure noise".  Non-professionally I like the earbuds but wish they fit a little more snug.

Noise and Hearing Loss:
It is well known that loud noise causes hearing loss.  Generally this is loud noise over a sustained period of time, but sometimes a single close "gunshot" can cause permanent damage.  OSHA has set some safety guidelines for workplace noise exposure that is a decent guide but unfortunately a little arbitrary and non-scientific.  OSHA limits are 8 hours @ 90dB OR 4 hours @ 95dB OR 2 hours @ 100dB OR 1 hour @ 105dB.  Some estimate that hearing loss can happen with sustained volumes of only 85dB.

For example, a quiet room is about 30dB, normal talking about 60dB, major highway 90dB, jackhammer 100dB, jet engine 50m away 150dB.

The iPod's earbuds get up to a volume of about 115dB at maximum volume.  As you can see, at this volume this is way too loud for safe sustained listening.  There are no well studied recommendations for "maximum personal listening device volume".  However, the best rule of thumb is to never listen so loud that you can't hear people talking around you.  In other words, if you can't carry on a normal conversation while listening, then you are probably turned up too loud.

There are a few good studies out there that seem to indict "personal listening devices" as culprits in early hearing loss (here and here).  In science it is extremely difficult to prove a causal relationship - for example we still can't prove that tobacco causes cancer.  Most of the studies look at hearing tests of young adults that are frequent listeners compared to those that are not.  They find that frequent listeners have some decline in their very high frequency hearing (4KHz and above).  There is not much that we listen to in these very high frequencies but it has been established that most sensorineural hearing loss starts very high and then works its way down into the more moderate frequencies as it progresses.  So this very high frequency loss is the first sign of damage.

Choosing Earbuds:
I swapped out my older iPod plastic molded buds for Skullcandy-brand.  The Skullcandy's come with three sets of silicone molds that can be exchanged to get a secure fit in the ear canal.  I thought this would be great for running and exercising because it provides a "tight fit".  But ahhh I forget so quickly about the occlusion effect - when you plug your ears (say with your fingers) every noise from your body gets LOUDER, and of course the outside world is silenced.  While the medium earbuds fit the most snug and comfortable, the noises of my breathing, chewing, talking, the earbud wire rubbing on my neck were overwhelming.  Wearing this while running sounds like a freight train.

The occlusion effect also amplifies the music by up to 20dB (which is 100-fold, as the spl scale is logarithmic).  The net effect is that if you use these while running you are probably listening at around 100dB or greater to overcome the "personal noise" and forget about hearing the outside world.  They do a good job of "noise reducing" but while road running not hearing your surroundings is unsafe.
I wound up switching our the silicone mold to the smallest ones which do a good job of holding the bud secure but does not cause too much occlusion effect.

Honestly the classic iPod buds may be the best for running if they fit your ears.  Nike also has the Vapor and Flow headphones which utilize a behind-the-ear anchor like a Blutooth cell phone headset.  If these stay on while running they may do the best at protecting your ears as the mechanics are not forcing the bud into the ear canal and it allows you to hear plenty of background sounds.

Safety of iPods on the Road:
The USATF has recently taken the position to ban personal listening devices during their sanctioned races (Rule 159).  They cite the physical danger of running while being distracted (and possibly deafened) as well as the concern that some elite athletes will disguise communication devices and get an "edge up" on the competition.  They also claim that runners will not be able to listen to race instructions or listen for important notices along the way.  Personally I think this is a strong and unfortunate position they are taking.
I have never had a problem running with headphones in on suburban streets.  I can't find any studies about headphones making you more prone to getting run over by cars.  I keep the volume low enough that I can still hear cars approaching and still talk to my running buddies.  The music is just there in the background.  In a race scenario this would even be safer as the course is closed to traffic, and it's not like you can do much to stay out of the way of an aberrant fellow jogger anyway.  I will admit that I usually don't wear headphones when I do my 5pm downtown Atlanta runs from work.  I would worry a little about getting distracted.

The bit about not hearing race instructions is bologna.  Keep the volume to an acceptably low level and you're good to go.

As for the elite runners using headphones to cheat... I may have an answer:  Only actively disqualify headphone users from the top spots (ie money or placements).  This will allow the 98% of other slower runners who don't care about placing to keep using.  (This is more or less what the USTAF has been doing as they are not actively disqualifying average runners yet).  Just make it a rule that you can get an official time but not place.

I think there are a lot of folks out there who would be fatter and slower if it weren't for the iPod.  Lets not discourage its use.  Some simple adaptations can keep you listening safely for a lifetime.