The Ramble – Battlefield Acupuncture, The Biggest Loser, Muscle Power

Information contained in a paper from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Health Professions, Department of Physical Therapy published in the May 2007 edition of the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, reveals some interesting info that fitness consumers should be aware of.

The paper provides evidence that muscle power is a more important predictor of functional performance than muscle strength and that peak muscle power could be a more critical part of the resistance training programs of older men and women. If the technical jargon intimidates you don’t fret, I’ll simplify the point for you.

Muscle power is a measure of how quickly muscle can produce force – think, “jumping” – and muscle strength is the ability to produce maximum force – how much weight you can lift.  “Functional performance” simply means the ability to perform daily activities like walking up stairs and getting out of a chair.  To make it simple, this means that the ability to move quickly is more important in determining performance than how strong a person is.


The conclusions presented in this paper can be illustrated by this study conducted by the University of New Hampshire that found that exercise can help seniors get stronger, but does little to prepare them for the rigors of daily life.  This UNH study posits that certain kinds of exercise cannot help seniors develop the power necessary and that other training interventions need to be explored to determine how to assist seniors.

Muscle power certainly can be developed in people of all ages if the correct types of exercises are included in the program.  People of all ages and ability levels should perform ground-based, compound movements in order to develop the muscle power necessary to perform daily functional tasks.  Athletes use these exercises in their training programs because they are the most efficient and effective modes of exercise, and develop balance, stability, coordination as well as muscle power.

Regular folks like us, regardless of our age, fitness or ability level, must perform exercises that develop our ability to produce muscle power. MY TWO CENTS If you’ve poked around HealthAndFitnessAdvice.com you may have figured out that I’m not a big fan of the reality television show, “The Biggest Loser.” There are a ton of problems with this show, not the least of which is the emphasis on weight loss and the assumption that proposition that losing weight improves fitness. 

Despite what’s represented in the mainstream media and in the advertising and marketing materials employed by diet programs, people can improve their fitness without losing a pound. A growing body of research tells us that weight is no more responsible for a person’s health than being left-handed and despite all the time, effort and money people spend on diets they haven’t improved their health.  “The Biggest Loser” takes this obsession with weight to an unhealthy and irresponsible new level.

I’m amazed by the unprofessional ways of the personal trainers of the show, the way these contestants” accept this behavior and the larger acceptance of these unacceptable practices by the viewers of this show.  “The Biggest Loser” perpetuates harmful myths about the connection between body weight and health and the way in which personal trainers can treat their clients.


CURRENT EVENTS: The Air Force has decided to train their combat medics in “battlefield acupuncture” to help wounded troops deal with pain. The Air Force has run the military’s only acupuncture clinic is training their doctors so that they can practice this ancient Chinese practice in war zones and the Navy is following the flyboy’s footsteps and has initiated a similar program at Camp Pendleton in California.

This “battlefield acupuncture” is a variation of the traditional method of ear acupuncture and uses shorter needles so that soldiers can receive treatment, wear their combat helmets and continue their missions with the needles in place to continue to relieve pain. Despite what you might think, acupuncture isn’t new to the military.  During the Vietnam War an Army surgeon chronicled the use of acupuncture by local physicians who practiced at a U.S. Army surgical hospital and administered treatment to the locals. 

Acupuncture was offered at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey back in 1995 and there are now 50 active duty military physicians who practice this ancient Chinese art. The military takes a realistic approach to this treatment and recognizes that acupuncture isn’t a cure all and that sometimes it doesn’t work at all.  But in the efforts to provide military men and women with non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical means of pain relieve the U.S. Military deserves credit for being open-minded while offering troops alternative methods of treatment.

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