On Fitness: Cross-Training, Food Inc., Ballpark Food, and More

Also, the benefits of steady cardiovascular exercise.


Here's a quick wrap-up of the latest fitness and diet buzz:

Bo Knew Best

Cross-training may have become a fitness buzz-phrase back in the 1980s, when Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson took part in a multitude of sports while pitching shoes for Nike. Now it's pretty much an accepted part of exercise wisdom; by doing different activities, you can fend off the overuse injuries and boredom that can accompany exclusive focus on a single sport. The New York Times's Well blog digs into the benefits this week, with columnist Liz Robbins talking about how runners are these days encouraged to keep up their fitness by running less often and doing things like cycling on other days. One way to cross-train is to work out with your significant other or a friend and to take turns in picking the workout; here are 10 tips for exercising with a partner. Also, yoga is often mentioned as a great cross-training option for athletes.

Perhaps Skip the Popcorn at This One

Food Inc., the movie about U.S. agriculture and our food chain, is finally opening! Your opinions of it may be colored by how you feel about farm practices and the industry's responsibility for food safety. Here's how some film critics weighed in. (The New York Times's review said, "You'll shudder, shake and just possibly lose your genetically modified lunch."). Agricultural company Monsanto, featured prominently but not favorably in the movie, weighs in, as do the similarly treated meat, poultry, and livestock industries. It's all part of the escalating food fight between large food producers, who say they make food cheap and abundant, and critics who say the companies' practices hurt and sicken people, animals, and the environment. Earlier this year, I explored how the notion of a "good diet" is expanding to include these concerns.

And the Nachos

If you can still stomach a hot dog after seeing Food Inc., wait—have you thought about the calories? FitSugar gives calorie info for common ballpark treats, and let's just say it would take a lot of trips around the bases to burn off some of the things eaten in the bleacher seats. The worst pick is an order of nachos, with 1,101 calories. Better choices: Cracker Jacks and roasted, salted peanuts, which are lower in calories and saturated fat. Cardio, Rehabilitated

Steady cardiovascular exercise, such as running at a constant pace for 45 minutes, has gotten a bad rap from some fitness experts in recent years. Rather than spending hours on the treadmill, they say, you get more bang for your buck with a strength-training program and interval training—short bursts of intense activity. It turns out, they may be only partly right. As described in the Male Pattern Fitness blog, an experiment by two highly regarded fitness trainers compared three programs—strength training plus steady cardio, strength training plus intervals, and strength training plus a suspension workout using a TRX pulley system. The results? No differences in weight loss, no differences in performance. (Read the details from the experiment designers here.) One big difference was in the dropout rates: 80 percent in the aerobic group, 55 percent in the intervals group, and 35 percent in the TRX group. Such high attrition rates aren't uncommon in unpaid experiments conducted at a distance (via E-mail), but it definitely suggests that if you don't like doing a given activity, you won't do it. So other methods of exercise may be better than steady aerobics if they get you to work out when otherwise you'd skip it.

For more on interval training, read about whether you can really get a great workout in 3 minutes. And to see my review of a TRX class, check out 6 workouts you can step up to.