Volume 94, Issue 69

Thursday, January 25, 2001


A quick fix or a long-term commitment?

A quick fix or a long-term commitment?

By Lindsay Satterthwaite
Gazette Staff

January is almost over and people have flooded the gyms, still trying to shave off those excess holiday pounds in the hopes of finding abs again in time for Spring Break. But are people looking for a quick fix, long term commitment, or whichever comes first?

Elizabeth Elliot, the fitness and dance co-ordinator at Western's Campus Recreation, said there has been an increase in people using the facilities in the past three to four years.

"There is a definite increase in people after Christmas," Elliot said. She attributed the rush of people to new year's resolutions and people going away for spring break.

Photos by Bree Rohal and Kayla Silver/Gazette

Scott Admans, the personal training co-ordinator at London GoodLife, said he has noted a negative change in the reasons why people work out. "Society has plagued the younger generation with many myths associated with exercise and nutrition," he said.

Body image is an ongoing issue which affects more females because of the way society suggests they portray themselves, Admans said. However, these myths can have negative results.

Leora Swartzman, an associate psychology professor at Western, said some people over-exercise to attain the perfect body. "We are all exposed to the same ads, but some people may be more susceptible to them. Some people try to emulate them more than others."

Whether exercising is considered positive or not, often depends on the motivation for doing it. If someone is continually thinking about their body and comparing it to others, then it may be an obsession, Swartzman explained. If you work out because you feel better, then it is a healthy motivation.

However, the distinction is not how frequently people exercise, it is how they react when they cannot exercise. Exercising becomes problematic when it interferes with your life, she said.

"Obsession with exercising comes from the obsession with the body. People put too much pressure on themselves mentally," Admans said. The key is to balance and incorporate exercise into your current lifestyle.

The most important part of working out effectively is education, Admans said. "It is important to understand the entire process of physical health, including sleep, nutrition, and physical activity."

He explained it is not always the question of whether people are working out too much, but if they are working out effectively. "It is difficult to say if people work out too much, but people often do work out a lot because they think they need to."

Peter Lemon, a professor of kinesiology at Western, said a proper exercise program is extremely beneficial. The optimum amount of exercise depends on the individual. "You have to start slowly, maybe only 10 minutes a day, three times a week. Then work up to 30 or 40 minutes," he said.

Lemon explained overtraining occurs when an athlete does not allow the muscles to fully recuperate after each training session. A number of systems can start to break down when one works out too hard, too long, or too often.

"Overtraining often occurs in athletes who find that their performance is not as good as it was in the past, and they feel that working harder will help," he said, adding once an optimum level is attained, the body begins to break down when worked past that point.

First, there is damage to the muscle. Muscles can repair themselves between exercise sessions, and this actually contributes to adaptation in performance. However, working out a specific muscle group too often does not give enough repair time to the muscle, he said.

With extreme exercise, there can be impaired immune functions including respiratory problems and increased susceptibility to viruses.

Lemon recommended consulting a professional before starting an exercise program to avoid doing too much too soon.

Tim Holley, a 24-year-old who regularly exercises, said he works out six times a week. For Holley, extreme exercising started all at once. "One day just out of the blue, I started going to the gym every day," he said.

Holley said he often goes to the gym with friends, which keeps his motivation high, but also inspires him to work out as hard as his friends. "All my friends work out with weights. It is important to me to be a part of that both physically and mentally."

He said he became interested in working out specifically to build more muscle. "I was kind of skinny and I was interested in building my body up more," he said.

"I go to the gym to look good and feel good," he said. However, Holley admitted that his 5'10" frame was small and he was interested mainly in building up more muscle. "I want to look physically bigger."

He considers himself well educated in terms of proper exercising techniques through magazines and trial and error.

Leslie Cumming, a third-year sociology student, said she works out one to two times a day, for an average of three hours a day. "I hate it when I don't work out for a day. I feel really guilty and would rather not take a day off at all," she said.

Photos by Bree Rohal and Kayla Silver/Gazette

"I think that working out is a benefit to your entire life; you become a more productive person," she said. She admitted that while it was not enjoyable getting back into shape, once she did, it was a huge relief on her system.

Cumming said he started taking exercise more seriously two and a half years ago, but initially started to lose weight. She did not work out too much in the first year, but was taking weights quite seriously. "Then just one day, everything clicked, and I became addicted," she said.

Despite her rigorous training schedule, Cumming said he is not content with her ability. "I always want to get better."

Cumming said he feels that her enjoyment depends on the day. "Life is better when you work out," she said.

She has done a lot of research to make sure that she is taking care of her body. "I read a lot of magazines, but I felt that they contradicted what the books said. I have worked out with trial and error, too."

Cumming does not feel she has time to increase her work out schedule much more except for maybe an hour or two a week, because it does not fit into her already busy schedule. She works out four to five times per week with weights, allowing sufficient time between muscle groups for her muscles to recuperate.

"When you exercise, you tend to take on other [healthy] behaviours," Lemon said. Exercise should be a part of everybody's lifestyle. The right amount of exercise has phenomenal benefits. "If you could package the benefits of exercise into pill form, you would be a millionaire overnight."

To Contact The Campus and Culture Department:

Copyright The Gazette 2000