Week of October 25, 2010
Contact: Alice Bender, (202) 328-7744

AICR HealthTalk
Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: I’d like to use exercise videos as another option for keeping active, but I’m lost when it comes to choosing among them all. Are there guidelines for choosing the best ones?

A: Videos can be a great option for physical activity that’s fun and convenient, but you want to choose those that are safe, suited to your level of fitness, appropriate to your goals, and both enjoyable and easy enough to follow that you will actually use them. Ideally, see if your friends, the library or a video rental store or service has some that you can try out before purchasing them. Check packages or product descriptions for the beginner, intermediate or advanced level of fitness that realistically matches where you are now. If you’re not ready for it, a more advanced program will just leave you so frustrated you’re likely to quit or perhaps even put you at risk of injury as you try to keep up. Just as with a trainer you’d work with in person, look for a certified, experienced instructor who includes a warm-up and a cool-down in the workout. Look for programs in which the instructor or others clearly visible from the background offer alternatives to the main workout if the pace or certain moves are too difficult for you. Check whether you’d need any special equipment, such as weights, resistance bands, a stability ball or step. And consider which elements of overall fitness you need to fill: strength-training, calorie-burning, abdominal core-building, or relaxation and flexibility. Don’t be drawn in by false promises from videos promising quick weight loss or instant results; in small print most note that this is achieved when you also follow a specific diet (which may not be safe). Plenty of safe, realistic, effective videos are available; check reviews at websites like and if you need help choosing.

Q: If blood pressure control is all about limiting sodium, what has eating more vegetables and fruits got to do with better blood pressure?

A: Limiting sodium is an important step to reduce risk of high blood pressure and, for many people, to control it. However, eating lots of vegetables and fruits adds another layer of protection. In the ENCORE study, overweight men and women with above normal blood pressure achieved drops of 11 mm Hg / 8 mm Hg after just four months on a diet that limited sodium and fat and loaded up on vegetables and fruits. These foods supply potassium, magnesium and dietary fiber, all of which seem to help control blood pressure. Aim for at least one cup total of vegetables and fruits at each meal and a snack, and you’ll easily reach the level consumed in studies of the DASH diet, a high vegetable-fruit diet that consistently reduces blood pressure. The ENCORE study showed that adding exercise and weight loss of about a pound a week to this high-produce eating style can reduce blood pressure even further.

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