Healthy Bodies
  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • June 2011
Written by  Karmen Nenahlo

Expert answers to your health and wellness questions: Fish oil, working out when you're sick and infomercial exercise programs

Question: It seems that more and more people are taking fish oil these days. Is this something you recommend?

Answer: You're absolutely right — fish oil is becoming very popular, and for good reason. There are a number of health benefits associated with this supplement and, if experts had to choose between fish oil supplementation and a daily multivitamin/mineral, more and more would probably steer you toward fish oil. First of all, the Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are generally considered anti-inflammatory, while Omega-6 fatty acids are considered pro-inflammatory. Unfortunately, traditional western diets are much higher in Omega-6's compared to Omega-3's, so trying to incorporate more Omega-3's into your diet is just good common sense. In addition, Omega-3's have been shown to lower triglycerides levels, reduce heart attack and stroke risk, slow the build-up of artery plagues and slightly lower blood pressure. And if that's not enough, they have also been studied extensively for their neuroprotective effects related to Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and depression. If you decide to supplement with fish oil, typical dosages start at 1,000 mg of EPA and DHA (the two prominent fatty acids) per day. It's also a good idea to incorporate at least two servings of low-mercury, fatty fish per week.

Question: Can you provide a little refresher on working out when you're sick?

Answer: Everyone seems to have a different opinion on this, but here's the scoop. You often hear people say that working out is fine if it's just a head cold — stuffy nose, coughing and other stuff that you don't like, but can deal with. This is generally true, but if you have a fever, body aches or other more serious symptoms, you should leave the exercising to the rest of us. This philosophy is actually pretty sound, but consider these issues as well. When I'm working out, I don't really want people that are sneezing and coughing around me — and I would guess you don't either. Plus, I like to work out with intensity, and I put a premium on the quality of my exercise. Therefore, I would rather rest up for a day or two, even if I just have a head cold. Then, when I get back to exercising, I can pick-up right where I left off. Ultimately, the decision is in your hands, so do what's best for you!

Question: I have several friends that follow some of the popular workouts that you often see touted in infomercials and on the internet. Is there anything "special" about these workouts? Do you think it's worth the money to invest in one?

Answer: That's a good question. I have a few friends that have followed P90X and some other popular programs as well. Here are my thoughts. Many of these programs are just practical adaptations of some of the latest and greatest fitness research, often coupled with some traditional exercise equipment. Add an expert with a vibrant personality, and you've got a recipe for a successful program. Do these types of programs work? Sure, if you follow the program, stay committed and push yourself (though the expert is usually pretty good at that, too). That said, I wouldn't say there's anything "special" about them. Many (but not all) are simply spin-offs of Body Pump, with some high-intensity interval training thrown in for good measure. This type of training works well regardless of whether you follow a structured program or not. Plus, I would argue that a certified personal trainer at your local health club could design a better workout for you, simply because it's personalized. They'll take into account your personal health statistics, fitness level, time constraints, and many other variables. And they'll be there with you through it all — in person! So, is it worth the money to purchase one of these programs? It might be, but your success really depends much more on you, and how dedicated you are to reaching your goals.

Karmen Nenahlo is with Anytime Fitness, the world's largest 24/7 co-ed fitness franchise. For more information, visit

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