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What is a Systems Approach? Use It to Train Others and Yourself

When I was in graduate school I discovered in my readings, the differences between open-loop systems and closed-loop systems approach. I fell in love with the Open-loop systems descriptions in business and how it contrasted with the closed-loop. In this blog, I will explain what these systems are and how you likely operate in both but you need to invite the open-loop systems into your practice and perhaps your own training.

A closed-loop system is as you might think — closed to the influence and energy of outside sources. While this seems efficient, in the long run- it is not. A closed-loop system is similar to the thermostat in your living space. The temperature goes down, it is detected by a thermometer. This is sent to an “integration center” which processes the information and sends a signal to an “effector” which would be a heater or air conditioner to “turn on” or not. In training, this might be where you train someone and they begin to get stronger with weights. Say you have them doing a bench press between 8 and 15 repetitions. Once they can do 15 reps easily, you “raise the weight” and they no longer can do. Job done… or is it?

In an open-loop system, there is “new energy” coming in and adaptations must take place. So when a tree is growing there is a normal system, where leaves go through photosynthesis, they make glucose and oxygen from carbon dioxide and water they provide energy to the plant and everything is “honkey-dory”…or is it?

Actually, the leaves that were getting a high amount of light send a signal to the integrating center, and the leaves that were getting very low light also send a signal to the integrating center. The tree adjusts its growing pattern to maximize the light pattern. It was capable of adaptation. It was capable of pulling in new positive energy and adjusting the system to accommodate it, thus survive.

Our bones must constantly have new incoming stimulus to grow or even “stick around” especially in older age. The natural process of the bones is to “lose mineral density” but by introducing new stimulus and the proper nutrients, you can maintain or even grow bone mass.

To develop a system, you must include all 3 aspects of the homeostasis cycle. You must do an assessment to understand the current state of the client. This is a receptor or detector. If you don’t have a good assessment system that is understood by the integration center, then the system is broken. If you do not understand the scientific background, then you as a trainer, are not a good integration center. Finally the effector. In the case of this analogy, the effector is exercise. Exercise will change the stimulus to the bone, thus it “effects” the result.

In my Osteoporosis Fitness Specialist online course, I provide a comprehensive assessment system using the ABCDEFF. It assesses someone’s agility, balance, coordination, dexterity, endurance, force, and flexibility. Throw in someone’s bone density (T-score) and if they have broken a bone, as well as a nutritional and medical intake and you have a really good picture of your client’s status. From there, a solid education on bone physiology and how exercise influences bone physiology sets up the integration center. Finally, the exercise programs are highly adaptive to not only the location (gym, home, or park) but the level (1-4). Thus, great adaptability exists to allow new energy to flow into the system.

Webinar with Mark Kelly: Kick Some ‘Ass’essments!

Assessments… most trainers are scared of this word, and many clients don’t want to go through them. A good assessment should not be feared, and actually it should be embraced because it may give critical information to guide your training program. What if you went to the medical doctor and he or she just guessed at what you might have, and then gave you a drug or wanted to do surgery on you! You would think they are crazy! Why should setting up a training program be any different, especially for someone with a medical condition.

This webinar will go through the different tests that are easy to perform, very informative, and well within a trainer’s scope of practice. It will also discuss how to use clinical tests in conjunction with your own to advance your assessment and accurately deliver a program specifically guided to help your client improve their condition and life!

Dr. Mark P. Kelly has been involved with the health and fitness field for more than 30 years. He has been a research scientist for universities and many infomercial projects. He has spoken nationally and internationally on a wide variety of topics and currently speaks on the use of exercise for clinical purposes and exercise’s impact on the brain. Mark is a teacher in colleges and universities in Orange County, CA., where Principle-Centered Health- Corporate Wellness & Safety operates.


Exercise and Cardiovascular Disease

Regular exercise has a favorable effect on many of the established risk factors for cardiovascular disease. For example, exercise promotes weight reduction and can help reduce blood pressure. Exercise can reduce “bad” cholesterol levels in the blood (the low-density lipoprotein [LDL] level), as well as total cholesterol, and can raise the “good” cholesterol (the high-density lipoprotein level [HDL]). In diabetic patients, regular activity favorably affects the body’s ability to use insulin to control glucose levels in the blood. Although the effect of an exercise program on any single risk factor may generally be small, the effect of continued, moderate exercise on overall cardiovascular risk, when combined with other lifestyle modifications (such as proper nutrition, smoking cessation, and medication use), can be dramatic.

Benefits of Regular Exercise

  • Increase in aerobic capacity
  • Decrease in blood pressure at rest
  • Decrease in blood pressure while exercising
  • Reduction in weight and body fat
  • Reduction in total cholesterol
  • Reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • Increase in HDL (good) cholesterol
  • Increased insulin sensitivity (lower blood glucose)
  • Improved self-esteem

Physiological Effects of Exercise

There are a number of physiological benefits of exercise. Regular aerobic exercise causes improvements in muscular function and strength and improvement in the body’s ability to take in and use oxygen (maximal oxygen consumption or aerobic capacity). As one’s ability to transport and use oxygen improves, regular daily activities can be performed with less fatigue. This is particularly important for patients with cardiovascular disease, whose exercise capacity is typically lower than that of healthy individuals. There is also evidence that exercise training improves the capacity of the blood vessels to dilate in response to exercise or hormones, consistent with better vascular wall function and an improved ability to provide oxygen to the muscles during exercise. Studies measuring muscular strength and flexibility before and after exercise programs suggest that there are improvements in bone health and ability to perform daily activities, as well as a lower likelihood of developing back pain and of disability, particularly in older age groups.

Patients with newly diagnosed heart disease who participate in an exercise program report an earlier return to work and improvements in other measures of quality of life, such as more self-confidence, lower stress, and less anxiety. Importantly, by combining controlled studies, researchers have found that for heart attack patients who participated in a formal exercise program, the death rate is reduced by 20% to 25%. This is strong evidence in support of physical activity for patients with heart disease.

How Much Exercise is Enough?

Unfortunately, most Americans do not meet the minimum recommended guidelines for daily exercise. In 1996, the release of the Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health provided a springboard for the largest government effort to date to promote physical activity among Americans. This redefined exercise as a key component to health promotion and disease prevention, and on the basis of this report, the Federal government mounted a multi-year educational campaign. The Surgeon General’s Report, a joint CDC/ACSM consensus statement, and a National Institutes of Health report agreed that the benefits mentioned above will generally occur by engaging in at least 30 minutes of modest activity on most, if not all, days of the week. Modest activity is defined as any activity that is similar in intensity to brisk walking at a rate of about 3 to 4 miles per hour.

These activities can include any other form of occupational or recreational activity that is dynamic in nature and of similar intensity, such as cycling, yard work, and swimming. This amount of exercise equates to approximately five to seven 30-minute sessions per week at an intensity equivalent to 3 to 6 METs (multiples of the resting metabolic rate*), or approximately 600 to 1200 calories expended per week.

How Can a Personal Trainer Help?

If you have cardiovascular disease or are at risk for developing disease, you may be apprehensive at starting an exercise program. You may have questions such as:

  • Is exercise safe for me?
  • How long should I exercise?
  • How frequently should I exercise?
  • Do I stretch before or after exercise?
  • Can I do strength training and lift weights?
  • How do I know if I’m exercising at the right intensity?
  •  What if I develop symptoms such as dizziness, light-headedness, or nausea?

A personal trainer or exercise professional can answer all of these questions for you and establish a well-rounded exercise program that is safe and effective.

A personal trainer will tell you what types of aerobic exercise are most appropriate for you and devise an exercise program tailored towards your needs. This will include guidelines for frequency (how many times per week), intensity (how hard you should exercise), and duration (how long each exercise session should last). A well-designed exercise routine will start with a warm-up that includes dynamic movements designed to raise the heart rate, increase core temperature, mobilize the major joints in the body, and prepare the body for more intense exercise. Warm-up can be followed by either aerobic exercise or weight training. Your trainer can monitor your heart rate and blood pressure during both activities to make sure you are exercising at the proper intensity. If heart rate and blood pressure get too high, your trainer will have you decrease the intensity of exercise or stop. If you develop any symptoms while exercising, your trainer will be right there to advise you and check your vital signs. Weight training is very safe as long as it is performed with proper supervision. Your trainer will recommend the most appropriate exercises for you to do and emphasize proper breathing and technique. Under the guidance of an exercise professional, you can help to improve aerobic capacity, decrease blood pressure and cholesterol, improve good cholesterol, lower blood glucose, improve muscular strength, increase joint range of motion, and lower weight and body fat. All of these will result in a lower risk for developing cardiovascular disease or if you already have disease, it will decrease the chances of subsequent cardiovascular events. Most importantly, working with an exercise professional will extend your lifespan and greatly improve the quality of your life.

Eric Lemkin is a certified personal trainer, strength & conditioning specialist, corrective exercise specialist and founder of Functionally Active Fitness. Lemkin has been a certified personal trainer for 17 years and has helped people ages 8-80 reach their fitness goals through customized personal training – specializing in exercise for the elderly or handicapped. 


  • Kochanek KD, Xu JQ, Murphy SL, Miniño AM, Kung HC. Deaths: final data for 2009 [PDF-2M]. National vital statistics reports. 2011;60(3).
  • Roger VL, Go AS, Lloyd-Jones DM, Benjamin EJ, Berry JD, Borden WB, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2012 update: a report from the American Heart Association . Circulation. 2012;125(1):e2–220.
  • Heron M. Deaths: Leading causes for 2008 [PDF-2.7M]. National vital statistics reports. 2012;60(6).
  • Heidenriech PA, Trogdon JG, Khavjou OA, Butler J, Dracup K, Ezekowitz MD, et al. Forecasting the future of cardiovascular disease in the United States: a policy statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2011;123(8):933–44.
  • CDC. Million Hearts™: strategies to reduce the prevalence of leading cardiovascular disease risk factors. United States, 2011. MMWR 2011;60(36):1248–51.

Minimize the Risk of Falling in Elderly with Simple Balance Exercises

The mortality rate of seniors after an unintentional fall increases significantly. 38-47% of the elderly who fall will eventually have a fatal outcome [3]. Furthermore, one-half of those who fall are likely to fall again [4]. To minimize falls, exercise and staying physically active is extremely important to ensure that the mind and body is constantly optimized. Unfortunately, not all exercises are created equally for fall prevention. Here are some simple but effective balance exercises that you, or an elder under your care, can do at home.

Before you begin, here are some important considerations:
1. Ensure that you do not have illness or on any medication that interferes with your balance.
2. You have a secure and steady support aid (table, bar, etc.) to hold on to, and there is no dangerous object surrounding you if you fall.
3. There is someone nearby who is able to help you.
4. Start easy and progress as you get better.
5. Try focusing on a non-moving object in front of you to help with your balance.


Hold on to a support aid (barre, table, etc.). Begin by placing one foot in front of the other in tandem, or semi-tandem. When you feel confident, let go of the support and try to balance for at least 30 seconds. Switch sides. To progress, cross your arms across your chest and hold the position. Aim to achieve at least 60 seconds on both feet.


Stand on one foot and make a star pose by shifting your weight to the side. Progress by extending both arms and legs. Hold the position for at least 30 seconds and switch sides.


Hold on to a support aid and stand on one foot. Once confident, slowly lower your chest towards the floor (like you’re bowing down) with a firm and braced back (don’t hunch), and push the other leg backwards. Stand tall and repeat this movement 6-10 times on each leg, and switch after.

There are many modifications you can include to make it more challenging, such as shifting your point of focus, shutting your eyes, introducing distractions and using different surfaces. When it comes to maintaining balance, frequency is key. It is recommended that you perform these exercises often enough until you see improvement. Take note of the duration you can stay balanced to measure your progress.

Ke Wynn Lee is an author and an international award-winning corrective exercise specialist currently owns and operates a private Medical Fitness Center in Penang. Apart from coaching, he also conducts workshops and actively contributes articles related to corrective exercise, fitness & health to online media and local magazines.

Reprinted with permission from kewynnpt.com


Trainer Challenge of Stroke

A stroke is an obvious turning point in most survivors’ lives. In a best-case scenario, it can be as minor as a mild concussion. At worst, it is a disabling brain injury that leaves the person incapable of caring for themselves—or even breathing on their own. In any case, stroke clients can provide a significant challenge to a trainer wanting to help them, once medical care and primary rehabilitation has plateaued. This is especially true considering the variety of experiences a survivor can have, following a stroke.

keto meal

The Keto Diet and Athletes

Ketosis is a metabolic state similar to starvation in which energy is provided primarily by high fat intake, adequate protein intake (1 gram/Kg lean body mass) and low carbohydrate intake. The idea is to switch your body to using fat as fuel, instead of the usual carbohydrates. The keto diet has traditionally been used for weight loss, but now some athletes have taken up the diet as well. 

How does it work? 

Carbohydrates are initially restricted to 10 grams per day (15 to 20 grams per day in adolescents and adults), with patients counseled to increase their use of high fat foods (at the expense of protein). Traditionally, the diet consists of four parts fat to one part protein and carbohydrate (i.e., a 4:1 lipid to non-lipid ratio). Total calories are restricted to 80 to 90 percent of recommended values for age (Kossoff et al., 2009).  By eating a diet like this, the body becomes very efficient at utilizing fat for energy and produces higher levels of ketones (acetoacetate, acetone, and beta-hydroxybutyrate). 

What about athletes? 

Traditionally athletes have used carbohydrate sources such as maltose, dextrose, and others.  The entire industry of sports performance supplements has been geared to maximize carbohydrate absorption (max is about 240 kcals/hour due to GI function/absorption) and items are packaged in 80-100kcal/use servings.  So what happens to performance when you athletes switch to a keto diet?

Several studies have been completed looking at the short and longer (up to 3 months) use of keto-diets on performance. The results show ketosis seems to be better suited for endurance athletes than anaerobic athletes. In one study, short-term low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diets reduced exercise performance in activities that are heavily dependent on anaerobic energy systems (wroble, et al,m 2018). In another, a  low carb/keto-adaptated group of athletes had improved exercise training, lower body fat, improved fat oxidation during exercise, and better 100km time trial (McSwiney et al., 2018).

The bottom line is more research is needed, however, depending on the athletic activity, the keto diet may either help or harm athletic performance.

Contraindications: Individuals with inborn metabolic errors should NOT use the ketogenic diet.  Individuals with a history of documented myopathy or rhabdomyolysis should complete a more in depth workup for inborn errors prior to starting a ketogenic diet due to an increased risk of catabolic crisis.

Naomi L. Albertson M.D. is Board Certified by the American Academy of Family Physicians and specializes in the non-surgical management of musculoskeletal problems, sports injuries, concussions, and the treatment of osteopenia and osteoporosis.  A graduate of Tufts University School of Medicine, Dr. Albertson’s interest in bone health, exercise physiology and maximizing performance led her to develop Dr. Ni’s OC2, a bone health and muscle strength supplement for the unique frame support needs of adults over age 35. Visit her website, boneandmuscle.com.


  • Kossoff, E. H., Zupec-Kania, B. A., Amark, P. E., Ballaban-Gil, K. R., Christina Bergqvist, A. G., Blackford, R., Buchhalter, J. R., Caraballo, R. H., Helen Cross, J., Dahlin, M. G., Donner, E. J., Klepper, J., Jehle, R. S., Kim, H. D., Christiana Liu, Y. M., Nation, J., Nordli, D. R., Jr, Pfeifer, H. H., Rho, J. M., Stafstrom, C. E., … International Ketogenic Diet Study Group (2009). Optimal clinical management of children receiving the ketogenic diet: recommendations of the International Ketogenic Diet Study Group. Epilepsia50(2), 304–317. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1528-1167.2008.01765.x
  • Wroble, K. A., Trott, M. N., Schweitzer, G. G., Rahman, R. S., Kelly, P. V., & Weiss, E. P. (2019). Low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet impairs anaerobic exercise performance in exercise-trained women and men: a randomized-sequence crossover trial. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness59(4), 600–607. https://doi.org/10.23736/S0022-4707.18.08318-4
  • McSwiney, F. T., Wardrop, B., Hyde, P. N., Lafountain, R. A., Volek, J. S., & Doyle, L. (2018). Keto-adaptation enhances exercise performance and body composition responses to training in endurance athletes. Metabolism: clinical and experimental81, 25–34. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.metabol.2017.10.010

Simple Tips to Stave of Arthritis Symptoms

Offer up these simple tips to aid arthritic clients reduce flare-ups, decrease symptoms, and experience more pain-free days!

There are many simple practices that may greatly decrease the risk and severity of flare-ups. To help reduce painful and swollen joints, improve mood, and increase quality of life, implementing a few of these simple techniques may make a world of difference.

1. Drink Water!  The body is comprised of about 60% water. Dehydration causes a decrease in function of all major organs, muscles, and even bones.

2. Get to Sleep!  Adults of all ages need 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Sleep is when your body repairs muscles, organs, and cells. In this resting state, chemicals will circulate in the blood that help to strengthen the immune system.

3. Set a Schedule!  Plan your days! Get into a routine of good habits. Setting alarms to get up, make phone calls, exercise, cleaning, and meals will provide a daily purpose.  Writing “to-do” lists on a paper calendar and crossing off items as they are accomplished provides a heightened sense of satisfaction and self-worth.

4. Eat Real Food!  The fewer ingredients, the better.  Read labels to avoid too much sugar, salt, and oil. I call these the “S.O.S.” These are foods that are known to cause inflammation and increase the risk for flare-ups.  For example, if you have the choice between an apple or apple pie, choose the apple with less ingredients. It also most likely contains less sugar or processed ingredients.

5. Exercise Daily!  Think of exercise as something you “work in” each day and not as a “work out.” Improving muscle strength, mobility, flexibility, and cardiovascular health reduces symptoms of autoimmune disease.

6. Hiring a virtual Arthritis Fitness Specialist once or twice a week to provide accountability and write safe and effective exercise programs is a great start!

7. Practice Mindfulness!  The simple act of taking a few deep and meaningful breaths throughout the day is a great way to reduce stress and decrease negative physiological responses. Incorporating some gentle stretches in the morning, after periods of inactivity, and before bed is also a great way to bring awareness to the body, ease tension, reduce anxiety, and lessen the symptoms associated with arthritis.

Join Christine for her webinar, Arthritis: Myths, Movements and Mobility

Christine M. Conti, M.Ed, BA is and international fitness educator and presenter. She currently sits on the MedFit Education Advisory Board and has been nominated to be the 2020 MedFit Network Professional of the Year. She is the author of the MedFit Classroom Arthritis Fitness Specialist Course and is the CEO and founder of ContiFit.com and Let’s FACE It Together™ Facial Fitness & Rehabilitation. Christine is also the co-host of Two Fit Crazies & A Microphone Podcast and the co-owner of TFC Podcast Production Co.


Essential Skills for Personal Trainers

Agility, Bodybuilding, CrossFit, Dropsets, Energy substrates… etc. There is a program — or ten — for every letter for every letter of the alphabet! Everyday something new comes out that will make all the difference in the world without any work. That is the dilemma for Personal Training. Weeding out the bad and applying the good becomes the more difficult each year. In addition, more is expected of each trainer! 

Industry Skills

With constant growth and industry change, a Personal Trainer’s education doesn’t stop with certification.  In fact, that is only the catalyst for future growth. A degree also doesn’t guarantee adequate knowledge. By the time you finish your program, the information you started with in antiquated. So, what do you need to know, or at least pay attention to?

The basics… Certification, there are more than 500, CPR/AED, knowledge of physiology, anatomy, kinesiology, biomechanics, program design, exercise selection, equipment usage, safety techniques, assessment, current trends, and nutrition to start! Then there is the requirements for keeping current! Thought your read a lot during college…get ready for a whole new level of information. Kind of like getting a drink out of a fire hose!

Interpersonal Skills

You are under the watchful eye of everyone you encounter. Whether you are working, working out, eating at a restaurant, or getting a donut at the bakery, you are on display. Being real and approachable is paramount to a successful career. No one cares about your credentials; they care that you treat them well.

Really you are an ambassador to health care. That means public speaking, communications skills coaching, counseling (not professional), ability to lead a group, excellent customer service, goal oriented, sales, all while maintaining a positive attitude!


Getting someone to do something they don’t want to do and eventually enjoy it is the mark of a good trainer.  Everyone wants six pack abs, but if you are a good trainer a year later, they will want to share a six-pack with you!  Passion and motivation are why they hire you! Why are you a trainer? If you can’t answer that question without hesitation, you need to dig deeper into why you want to train!  It must sustain you! Maybe you overcame a health issue, were an ex-athlete, lost weight, or reached some personal goal, that is what people want to buy!


More than a PhD, passion drives great trainers. Richard Simmons changed generations with his Sweating to the Oldies exercise programs. A household name for sure, he probably had the most direct influence on the fitness industry! Dealing with issues that affect most people, he forged a niche market of the average guy that just want to fit in, get healthy, and look better naked.


Guess what, just because you love helping others and working out, doesn’t mean you’ll be a good trainer. There is that little thing about running a business.Even if you are working for a gym, there are many qualities that differentiate outstanding from average trainers. Why do people hire you? Guess what it’s not because of your body, it’s for what you can do for them!

The list of desired traits is long but distinguished. Whether you like it or not, you are running a business. Therefore, qualities like accountability, time-management, delegation, networking, multi-tasking, planning, leadership, teamwork, flexibility, creativeness, logical thinking, patience, organization, motivation, and most of all tack.

Ready for the challenge?  It will be the hardest thing you will every love.  

Stay healthy.

Reprinted with permission from author.

Mike Rickett MS, CSCS*D, CSPS*D, RCPT*E is a nationally recognized health and fitness trainer of the trainers, fitness motivator, author, certifier, educator, and the 2017 NSCA Personal Trainer of the Year.  He has been a fitness trainer for more than 35 years. With Cheri Lamperes, he co-directs BetterHealthBreathing.com, a conscious breathing educational program focusing on the diaphragmatic technique to enhance overall wellness.  In addition, he also directs the personal training site ApplicationInMotion.com.