The TV show, “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” is fun because it highlights how much young students know that their parents have long forgotten or never knew.

But, measuring up to fifth-graders is equally difficult in other areas. For instance, how would most adults answer this question: “Are you as fit as a fifth-grader?”

“It’s likely that most adults don’t know how fit they are and they are probably less likely than fifth-graders to be able to find out,” says Dr. Michael Parkinson, senior medical director of Health and Productivity, for UPMC Health Plan. “Many employers do health risk assessments for their employees, but they do not realize that the absence of risk does not equal fitness.”

Smart Business spoke with Parkinson about how employers can better gauge and encourage fitness among their employees.

Why compare an employee’s fitness to that of a fifth-grader?

That is certainly an arbitrary standard, but what got me thinking about it was when my fifth-grade son came home with what was called a ‘Fitness Gram’ that showed how he scored in a number of physical tests designed to measure his fitness. What struck me most was how detailed the test was, most especially when you compare it to anything that could pass as its equivalent in the corporate world.

Employers have been measuring and promoting workplace wellness primarily through use of a health risk assessment that measures personal health behaviors and self-reported height and weight, or body mass index (BMI). Many employers add biometric screenings, which include blood pressure and lipid or blood fat levels, as well. And, of course, all employers are now required to pay for preventive care at no cost to their employees.

Are health risk assessments ineffective in measuring fitness?

They have a purpose, certainly, but they can be misleading. In health risk assessments, those whose scores indicate low risk are considered to be the most healthy. But what employers do not realize is that an absence of risk does not equal health. Absence of risk does not equal fitness. To be blunt, in the corporate world, the bar has been set too low on wellness.

How can the bar on fitness be raised?

One of the tests my fifth-grader had to take measured his aerobic capacity and is known as ‘VO2 Max.’ Aerobic testing is rarely, if ever, a part of any corporate wellness test for an adult, even though the information is vital.

Aerobic capacity shows the maximum capacity of an individual’s body to transport and use oxygen during incremental exercise. It is widely recognized as the test that best reflects the physical fitness of an individual.

It is also been shown to be the best single predictor of ‘all cause mortality,’ or how long we’ll live. Greater aerobic capacity has been associated with the ability to better perform both physical and mental work, clearly required in today’s demanding and competitive workplace.

Why should the fitness of employees matter to an employer?

Fitness tests generally assess muscle strength, endurance and flexibility, all of which are of great importance in the workplace. However, unlike elementary students, adults are rarely tested in these areas. Musculoskeletal injuries such as strains and sprains are due often to obesity, lack of core body strength and fitness.

Musculoskeletal injuries are a leading cause of lost workdays, as well as medical and disability costs. Back injuries, slips and stretching mishaps are common work-related incidents that employees face and that could be avoided with improved core body strength.

Is BMI an important measure of fitness?

Body mass index, or BMI, is a measurement test that is a common feature of most health risk assessments and it is used to determine whether an individual’s body weight differs from what is normal or desirable for a person of that height.

BMI is a measurement based on a formula that takes into account your height and weight in determining whether you have a healthy percentage of body fat. In general, BMI is an inexpensive and easy-to-perform method of screening for weight categories that have the potential to develop into health problems. But, again, it doesn’t indicate anything in terms of fitness levels and it doesn’t really say how healthy you are, just that you might be at risk for obesity.

How can employees raise their fitness levels?

Fifth-graders are often more fit than adults because, generally speaking, they are more active. In order to improve fitness, people need to participate in some kind of moderate aerobic activity for 30 minutes a day, five days a week. It does not matter if the 30 minutes is broken into three 10-minute segments.

What’s important is to try to get moving. Some exercise at any level of intensity is better than none as you start to build endurance.

It’s funny to think about comparing employee fitness levels to that of fifth-graders, but the message is serious. Any company that wants to take wellness to the next level should think about measuring fitness the way fifth-graders do, and, in the process, see how their employees measure up.

Insights Health Care is brought to you by UPMC Health Plan.

Published in Pittsburgh

The so-called “fitness” industry has become awash in a sea of backward thinking, untested and unproven premises and, worst of all, dangerous practices.

“It may sound extreme to suggest it, but if ever there was a Dark Age for exercise we are in it,” says Joshua Trentine, president of Overload Fitness.

Smart Business learned more from Trentine about how to leave the dark ages behind.

Why do you say we are living in the dark ages of exercise?

Most of our collective consciousness concerning exercise is based on aerobics philosophy. In 1968, Kenneth H. Cooper coined the term aerobics to denote his fascination with running. He later expanded this to include a host of activities, thus crossing over to millions of people and their pet interests and pastimes. Over the past few decades, the term aerobics has been replaced by the term ‘cardio’ under the assumption that ‘steady-state’ activities serve to stimulate and improve the functioning of the cardiovascular system. But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, aerobics undermines the necessary process to stimulate strengthening. It promotes injuries and thwarts the body’s ability to adapt to the stimulation were it to occur. In this regard, aerobics philosophy, i.e., steady-state notions, represent the Dark Age of Exercise.

Why are aerobics activities not as useful as many believe?

It is important to realize several facts. First, the center of metabolism in the body is the skeletal musculature. It possesses the greatest vascularity, the greatest concentration of mitochondria, and the greatest peripheral nerve supply. It is also the site of a majority of chemical reactions and heat production.

Second, although the heart is a muscle, it is involuntary. It is optimally accessed with exercise only by meaningful muscular (skeletal/volitional) loading. The very nature of steady state (aerobics) is to avoid meaningful muscular loading by burdening the bones, so that the muscles are spared to permit endurance and thus avoid exercise.

Third, cardio makes about as much sense as cutting your heart out of your chest and putting it on an exercise machine.

Aerobics is poor science. It is unhealthy. It is antithetical to exercise. It is backwards and uneducated. It is empty exercise. It subverts the loading required for exercise. It will not burn significant calories or meaningfully improve one’s appearance. It severely compromises what can be accomplished for the heart. Aerobics will incur injuries that lead to inactivity, depression, overeating and greater fatness.

Worse, in recent years, a literal wave of bastardized exercise trends have stemmed from the ‘cardio’ religion and have, in fact, transcended it in the fitness ranks:

n high volume training

n plyometrics

n pilates

n westernized yoga and its hybrid equivalents

n functional training

n explosive and ‘speed-strength’ training

n dance aerobics

n boxing aerobics and hybrids

n gyro-training

n vibration devices

n stretching programs

n spinning

n cross training and recent cross-fit programs

n boot camps

n home exercise programs such as P90X

Despite the apparent differentiation in the activities listed above, they are all built on an achievement-oriented premise that focuses on the process of the activities and not the results. If you’ve been engaged in a program of fitness that focuses on aerobic activity such as walking or running, using elliptical machines, jogging, or any of the practices listed above, you’ve been wasting much of your time.

This may seem shocking and outrageous but I suspect most readers will have their sense of shock immediately followed by a sobering moment of quiet agreement. If engaging in the above activities did lead to any good (as promised in every infomercial and health club banner), our society would be populated with the fittest people the world has ever seen because the majority of people are doing these things. But this is not the case. In fact, there are fewer and fewer lean and fit people today than ever before. And it’s getting worse.

So how can people stop wasting their time?

There is a solution to not only the challenge of physical conditioning but also the time commitment necessary to affect the kinds of improvements we all seek so dearly.

The key to all of this is proper exercise. And proper exercise is strength training. Strength training is the only practice that can lead to total fitness; that which directly and efficiently encompasses all of the suspected and unsuspected benefits that a person can experience from exercise. Strength training is the only exercise activity that asks not ‘how much can you tolerate?’ but more appropriately ‘how little do you require?’ In strength training, only the results matter; the process is secondary.

True exercise stimulates skeletal muscular strengthening. All reasonable expectations from exercise are accessed through the skeletal muscles — the only window into the body — by strengthening or attempting to strengthen those muscles. These expectations include: improvements in bone density, vascular efficiency, metabolic efficiency, joint stability, muscular strength and cosmetics.

It’s time to replace all the backward thinking, the erroneous concepts and the absurd and dangerous practices with valid principles and a new understanding.

It’s time to truly level the playing field so that the most feeble, debilitated and elderly homebody can eventually perform with the same sense of vitality and purpose as the most truly gifted, advanced and youthful athlete.

It’s time to ensure that a program of progressive intensity is never compromised by equally progressive risk of injury.

It’s time to admit that exercise requires not only ample intensity but also the correct dosage of volume and frequency.

Joshua Trentine is president of Overload Fitness. Reach him at (216) 292-7569 and visit

Published in Cleveland

Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S.

Jeffrey Tomaszewski of OVERLOAD Fitness discusses how exercise can prevent cardiovascular disease, but it's not cardio or steady state exercise like most people think.

For more information, visit

Jeffrey Tomaszewski, ATC, CSCS, MS, can be reached at (216) 292-7569, (440) 835-9090 or See more at

The content of this video is by Joshua Trentine, the founder of OVERLOAD Fitness. Reach him at (216) 292-7569.

Published in Cleveland
Monday, 28 February 2011 09:16

The importance of a good night's sleep

Jeffrey Tomaszewski of OVERLOAD Fitness discusses the importance of a good night's sleep and how not getting seven to eight hours of sleep each day can negatively impact your fat loss goals.

We've all heard that we need eight hours of sleep per night. Still many adults are getting less than six hours of sleep per night, and it's hurting them in a number of ways.

Research shows that long-term sleep loss is related to increased obesity and diabetes. Also, metabolism slows when a person doesn't get enough sleep.

Jeffrey Tomaszewski, ATC, CSCS, MS, can be reached at (216) 292-7569, (440) 835-9090 or See more at

Published in Cleveland
Thursday, 18 November 2010 09:18

How to set and achieve your fitness goals

Jeffrey Tomaszewski of OVERLOAD Fitness discusses how to set and then achieve your fitness goals.

Many people fail at their health goals because they never had a specific goal to begin with. By determining exactly what you want to accomplish, writing it down and then putting an action plan in place, you'll be able to achieve your goals.

Jeffrey Tomaszewski, ATC, CSCS, MS, can be reached at (216) 292-7569, (440) 835-9090 or See more at

Published in Cleveland
Thursday, 14 October 2010 20:00

How to eat healthy while traveling

Jeffrey Tomaszewski of OVERLOAD Fitness discusses eating healthy while on the road.

The key is to plan ahead — carry fruits, nuts or even supplements with you, so you don't have to rely on unhealthy options at the food court.

Jeffrey Tomaszewski, ATC, CSCS, MS, can be reached at (216) 292-7569, (440) 835-9090 or See more at

Published in Cleveland

Jeffrey Tomaszewski of OVERLOAD Fitness explains how even the busiest executive can get a full workout in 20-25 minutes using a program that takes advantage of physiological principles.

According to Tomaszewski, it's the intensity of the exercise, not the volume, so you can achieve maximum results with minimum exercise.

Jeffrey Tomaszewski, ATC, CSCS, MS, can be reached at (216) 292-7569, (440) 835-9090 or See more at

Published in Cleveland
Wednesday, 15 December 2010 05:04

How to avoid those extra holiday pounds

Jeffrey Tomaszewski of OVERLOAD Fitness discusses the downside of holiday cheer — weight gain.

The average American gains 3-5 pounds during the holiday season. But, if you eat well most of the time, you can still splurge for those holiday meals.

Tomaszewski talks about holiday weight gain, and offers a holiday fat loss guide.

Jeffrey Tomaszewski, ATC, CSCS, MS, can be reached at (216) 292-7569, (440) 835-9090 or See more at

Published in Cleveland
Wednesday, 06 October 2010 20:00

The concept of exercise

Joshua Trentine, the founder of OVERLOAD Fitness discusses the concept of exercise and the inverse relationship between volume frequency and intensity.

Joshua Trentine is the founder of OVERLOAD Fitness. Reach him at (216) 292-7569.

Published in Cleveland
Wednesday, 29 September 2010 20:00

Debunking common myths in the exercise field

Jeffrey Tomaszewski of OVERLOAD Fitness debunks common exercise myths, particularly ones that relate to metabolism and aging.

While it is true that metabolism can slow as we age, usually other factors are behind a slowing metabolism, such as less than ideal health habits.

Jeffrey Tomaszewski, ATC, CSCS, MS, can be reached at (216) 292-7569, (440) 835-9090 or See more at

Published in Cleveland