Benefits, risks of at-home extreme exercise

  • Article by: PAMELA KNUDSON , Grand Forks Herald
  • Updated: January 4, 2014 - 2:00 PM

Rigorous at-home fitness programs can render results, but may pose serious risk.

Kevin Praska does pull-ups at his Grand Forks, N.D., home as part of his fitness regimen.

Photo: John Stennes • Grand Forks Herald,

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The turning point for Kevin Praska came three years ago, when he lost his breath tying his shoes.

“I knew then, something’s gotta change,” he said.

That realization prompted him to begin P90X, a rigorous fitness program, which ultimately helped him shed 50 pounds and forge a commitment to leading a healthier lifestyle.

The results he got from the program were “amazing,” he said, considering “overall strength, core, balance and agility.”

While fitness programs like P90X and others, packaged on DVDs for at-home use, “are very popular and offer a lot of benefits,” they are not for everyone, says Kendall Railing, a strength and conditioning specialist with Sanford Power Center in Fargo, N.D.

“There are drawbacks,” he said.

These types of fitness programs attract buyers because they are “quick, easy and you see a lot of results in a short amount of time,” he said. “And results motivate people.”

But some people, especially those who are not used to exercising strenuously, may not be ready for the physical intensity of such programs, he said.

Shedding pounds

In fall 2010, Praska said he was going through a difficult time after the death of his father. Until then, he had been exercising — some weightlifting and walking.

“When my dad passed away, I got away from it. I probably took on too much afterward,” he said. “It was a depression kind of thing.”

He paid scant attention to his physical fitness or his diet. Weighing 240 pounds at his peak, “I knew it wasn’t the way I wanted to look. I knew I needed to get into better shape, choose a healthier lifestyle.”

A friend invited Praska to join him in a P90X workout. They met in his friend’s basement in the predawn hours to work out every day for three months.

The P90X program leads participants through a daily regimen of 60 to 90 minutes of exercises focused on developing core strength and balance, he said. It also includes yoga poses and uses bands and free weights.

The brainchild of trainer and fitness expert Tony Horton, the P90X workout is a 90-day, step-by-step program. The seventh day of each week is devoted to rest and stretching.

The pattern of exercises is changed frequently to promote “muscle confusion,” Praska said, maximizing the calorie-burning and muscle-building effects.

“We basically stuck to the regimen. After a week or two, I couldn’t move my arms” they were so sore, he said.

They completed the program shortly before Christmas 2010.

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