January 2020

There is More to Exercise Than Just Cardio!

As an exercise professional in the fitness industry for almost 30 years, I have seen a lot of fads, trends, and crazes regarding classes, programs, and equipment.  From high-impact to low-impact to step to spin; the constant focus on “cardio” has been and still is a very important component in the movement plan of many people. What’s easier than throwing on a pair of sneakers and going for a jog or a brisk walk?  The gratification of cardio exercise is almost instant as you work your heart and lungs, challenge your breathing, endurance, break a sweat, and build detoxifying heat. Plus, the activity helps you to reduce your stress and relax.

If you are one who craves a group class rather than the lonely road there are the ever-popular spin classes where you ride a bike with a small group of other determined spinners to see who can go the fastest, ride the hardest, breathe the heaviest, sweat the most, and do it in a club-type setting with great music and atmosphere. Plus, even the most uncoordinated, tight-hamstring, slightly soft male can get on a bike and compete. The ladies are happy because now they can get their guys to accompany them to an event both social and physical: A spin class.

As a teacher who has worked with thousands of students who are on a mission to change their bodies and lives, I can honestly tell you that there is more to fitness than cardio workouts.

Almost like the media scares us into thinking we need flu shots, the public is also greatly misinformed when it comes to types and styles of exercise.

Is there any real need to work our heart muscles to an extreme over a 45-minute period?  Does the heart muscle get stronger with such challenge? What are the systemic benefits of regular heart-muscle and cardio challenges like this? Am I healthier? Leaner? More fit? More flexible? Will I have a better chance of living longer because I do regular cardio exercise?

In most cases, the answer to all of these questions is either no, or not necessarily so.

Let’s take a look at what cardio exercise means:

Cardio is short for cardiovascular, which refers to the heart. Cardiovascular exercise, or “aerobics” as it was referred to in the ‘70s, is exercise that raises your heart rate and keeps it elevated for a period of time. The kinds of exercises that are associated with cardiovascular workouts are things like jogging, fast walking, spinning, and swimming, where there is no break in the routine. Exercises that emphasize stretch and strength, like pilates or yoga, are generally not considered cardio exercises, although both of these exercise systems can be performed with a “cardio effect” with the right pace and flow, and can certainly be combined with cardio workouts to great effect. There are more and more hybrid-style classes these days. At Exhale we teach our award-winning Core Fusion Cardio and Core Fusion Boot Camp classes, which combine cardio-type pace and flow with light weights and strengthening moves.

The benefits of cardio workouts

There is a hefty list of health benefits associated with doing cardio exercise. Here are some top reasons to include cardio in your workout routine:

  • It strengthens the heart
  • It strengthens the lungs and increases lung capacity
  • It boosts the metabolism for the hour and helps you burns calories and lose weight
  • It helps reduce stress
  • It increases energy
  • It promotes restful sleep

A true cardio workout is when you are working at around 60 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate for a minimum of 20 minutes. Simply stated, you should be able to talk while you are working out.  If you are too winded to speak comfortably, your heart rate is probably too high and you need to slow down. The fat-burning cycle needs a very specific heart-rate zone, otherwise you won’t burn fat calories and will switch to an anaerobic energy cycle, which is more intramuscular energy supply and results in a different effect.

For the average American, walking is the exercise of choice, and if the walk is brisk and purposeful over time, a person can get the required cardio benefits needed to maximize his or her health. The need to push to extremes with intense cardio does not necessarily give you proportionately greater cardiovascular results in the end.  It is the spirit of fun and competition that drives the hard-core runner, spinner, cardio junkie. They love the cardio high from exploring and challenging their limits, but in the end, their net results are no greater than the purposeful power walker who is choosing an activity that is much less stressful on the joints than running or jogging. Eventually, the knee, hip, and ankle joints of the runner could suffer from the pounding effect of the activity. Other forms of cardio exercise, like swimming, begin to make more sense.

What’s important to remember when choosing a movement plan is that the single most important component in fitness to maximize results and create life-enhancing changes is strength training.  With a resistance-training program, such as weight lifting, pilates, some forms of yoga, our Core Fusion® classes at Exhale, and other techniques, a person has the potential to increase lean muscle mass. As one ages, the three deficits that grow annually are muscle density, bone density, and muscle elasticity, which reduce our range of motion.

A program that incorporates resistance training will increase muscle density, lean muscle mass, and, most importantly, it will raise your resting metabolic rate, or RMR. This is the rate at which you burn calories round the clock, 24/7, not just the one hour that you are on the bike or going for a run.

By having a body with a high percentage of lean muscle mass, all of your other exercise choices including cardio will be more effective and safer. Muscles support joints, so if muscles are stronger, the joints have more integrity. By incorporating flexibility exercises into your strengthening work, you are promoting suppleness in the body, which is especially important for the muscles that line the spine. As Joseph Pilates once said, “A supple spine is a youthful body,” and in the end, isn’t that why we exercise, to stay youthful, energetic, and vibrant?

You would be wise to make exercise choices that will enhance your lifestyle and make these exercises a part of your lifestyle. Do the exercises that you need to do that will pay off a year from now and should be looked at as an investment. I am talking about the exercises that you know that you need, not necessarily the exercises that you look good doing.

I have trouble getting the competitive male to sometimes take Core Fusion® classes simply because he cannot get into the positions. Hamstrings are too tight, stomach a little too soft, back too tight, but the biggest problem is usually the ego being too big. If there is a will, and humility, a person can start building a physical foundation that simply improves over time. There is not much instant gratification sometimes, but with patience, perseverance, and consistency, it is possible to be in better shape in your 50s than you were in your 20s.

Lifestyle exercise that reduces stress, shapes your muscles, and builds strength and flexibility, all while simultaneously giving you the needed cardio benefits, will go a long way in enhancing your life.

Fred DeVito, Health & Fitness Contributing Editor
For over 30 years, Fred DeVito has taught New Yorkers to live healthier, leading fitness classes at the acclaimed Lotte Berk Method Studios, and more recently, at Exhale Spa, where he serves as Executive Vice President of Mind Body Training. With his wife and partner, Elisabeth Halfpapp . . . Read more about Fred DeVito

Stacey Griffith of Soul Cycle:
Best Health and Fitness Tips from Celebrity Spin Guru

SoulCycle, the now-famous workout where spinning meets spiritual enlightenment, has a ton of celebrity followers including Nicole Kidman and Brooke Shields. It’s always difficult to get into one of Stacey’s classes, but we were lucky enough to steal a few minutes with the popular instructor! Keep reading for some of the talented trainer’s thoughts on the worlds of beauty and working out.

Melissa Meyers: In terms of exercise, what is a nice complement to spinning?
Stacey Griffith: Power walking and swimming.

MM: What do you like to wear when cycling?
SG: I’m weird about what I wear to ride in. I usually wear Free City’s SoulCycle bra and tank top. It is a little on the hot side, but I love to sweat!

MM: What do you eat for breakfast?
SG: I am a big sucker for a bowl of cereal in the morning! I love granola, fruit and skim milk, but if I’m running behind I’ll usually grab a low sugar-content protein bar. Cliff [bars] in any flavor are tasty and filling!

MM: What do you eat before and after a workout?
SG: I actually very rarely work out for myself, because I teach 18 classes a week. However, I try to eat half of a protein bar before, and a balanced meal afterward. (It doesn’t always line up balanced!)

MM: Favorite workout music?
SG: I love all music! All of the playlists in my classes are mixed by my girlfriend, and I love all of the music she chooses: hip-hop, dance, electronic, deep house, etc.

MM: Must-have beauty products?
SG: Oil of Olay. (My grandma Stella’s favorite)

MM: What is your post-workout beauty routine?
SG: Shower and, if there is time, a long spiritual bath with candles and Epsom salts!

MM: Which celebs work out at SoulCycle?

MM: What do you drink to stay hydrated?
SG: My GrifFiT Green Juice, bottled at East Hampton Gourmet on Newton Lane (by the EH studio, [containing] green apple, kale, celery, cucumber, lemon). Phytonutrient heaven!

STACEY GRIFFITH is a 15-year veteran and AFAA and ISSA-certified personal trainer who combines dancing, athleticism, mind-blowing music, and spirituality in her unique SoulCycle® full-body workout. She studied Ashtanga Yoga with Sri K. Pattabhi Joyce in India, and was one of Schwinn Cycling’s first master presenters. Stacey has inspired a loyal following, including celebrity students Kelly Ripa, Nicole Kidman, Jodie Foster, Brooke Shields, and Kim Raver. Stacey is a fitness expert for Brooke Shields’ Colgate Total Healthy Upgrade team, is based in New York City, and spends her summers in the Hamptons.SoulCycle’s studios attract everyone from editors, celebrities, and socialites, to outdoor cyclists and fitness enthusiasts. Brooke Shields, Kelly Ripa, Anderson Cooper, Jeff Probst, Kyra Sedgwick, Edie Falco, Katie Lee, Tory Burch, Kevin Bacon, and Jane Krakowski are just a few of the familiar faces in the studios.

Be Chic at the Gym: Cool Workout Wear and Accessories

Just because you sweat at the gym, doesn’t mean you can’t do it in style. From post-gym primping, to super cute equipment, check out my favorite product recommendations when sporting around town.

Lululemon Athletica Power Y Tank
Lululemon Athletica just can’t be beat in terms of fit and style for exercise clothing. This form-fitting tank with built-in shelf bra allows for freedom in movement and is flattering on all figures. Available in a range of radiant hues (my favorite for this season is the light pink).
Buy Now, $52

Lululemon Athletica Reversible Wunder Under Pant Reversible
Like a second skin, these reversible pants are made to move. The Wunder Under Pant is made of a material that provides a four-way stretch, has a smooth elastic waistband to hide the very dreaded muffin top, and even includes a hidden waistband pocket to hold your money and keys. I love the look of the tight legging-style pants when working out!
Buy Now, $88

Insound Heather Grey Girls Full Zip Hoodie
What better way to consolidate your gym clothes than with a headphone embedded sweatshirt? Simply plug your iPod into the front pocket and listen through the drawstrings. This sweatshirt saves space and provides the perfect portal for holding onto your iPod as you move to, from, and within the gym. The light heather grey color is perfect for the summer.
Buy Now, $25

3 Floz Gym Kit
This kit tucks neatly into your bag and is filled with a compact collection of all your post-gym grooming needs. Packed with volumizing dry shampoo, hair spray, face towelettes and antibacterial towelettes, you will be fresh and fabulous in no time. Great for those on the go!
Buy Now, $57

Indego Africa Yoga Bags
Tribal is one of this season’s hottest prints. Carry your yoga mat in the cutest case possible with these trendy Indego Africa yoga bags. Made by Rwandan women, all profits from the bags go toward teaching the artisans long-term skills.
Buy Now, $45

Vita Dumb-Bells
Dump the dull dumbbells and pick up these sleek and modern 1kg ones. Not only are these weights aesthetically beautiful and decorative, they are also functional and super easy to hold.
Buy Now, $29

Anya Hindmarch Large Gym Tote
Forget those nylon drawstring bags, this chic canvas tote is a must-have for the gym. No need to sacrifice style when going to your favorite place to workout. Plus, it holds everything—even your sneakers!
Buy Now, $135

MISSION Skincare Sunscreens
These sunscreens are tailor-made to protect during athletic performance, especially if you prefer the great outdoors to the gym. The No-Sting Sunscreen Facestick doesn’t sting your eyes, and the SPF 50+ Sun Defeated Continuous Spray is packed with antioxidants and vitamins. It is also sweatproof and waterproof, as well as free of parabens and preservatives. Used by athletes like Mia Hamm and David Wright, MISSION Skincare Sunscreens are great for the summer runner, biker, and tennis player.
Buy Now, $9-10

Bikini Blaster Plan with Core Fusion Boot Camp Moves

By Fred DeVito

It’s that time of the year: you shed your winter layers and suddenly notice your muscles again – or rather, the lack thereof!  The tee shirts and shorts aren’t looking quite as you’d like (and forget about that swimsuit).  No need to panic – there’s still time to get in shape for summer…but you need to start now!

Single Leg Pulse

No more procrastinating.  From this moment forward, every morsel of food that you consume counts as calories going in – and every step that you consciously take (forgoing the escalator for the stairs) counts as calories going out.  At the end of the day, it’s simple math: over consume and you gain weight. Over exert and you lose weight.

Once you shift to choosing your calories wisely, it’s time to implement a series of strengthening and toning exercises.  I want to share some of the most fun, challenging, and muscle-burning moves from our Core Fusion Boot Camp class at exhale (also found on the Core Fusion Boot Camp DVD).  This series will jump start your fitness routine and get you on the path of exerting energy through challenging movements.  Your muscles will start to become stronger and in the process become shapelier.  Lean muscle is what burns those calories.  So get started today!

Core Fusion Boot Camp Workout for Bikini Blaster Results!

You can do this Core Fusion Boot Camp Workout 2 to 3 times per week.  The classes use a Core Ball, but you can switch in any ball—volleyball, soccer ball, kickball, beach ball—that you have available.  It just needs to be able to support your bodyweight for pushups.  You’ll also need a 5-to-8 pound dumbbell for the lifting moves.


Single Leg Pulse
Targets: Shoulders, abs, butt, legs
Stand on right leg with left leg held out in front of you.  Hold the ball or weight with arms extended directly in front of you at chest height. Bend right leg slightly lowering your body 2-3 inches, then straighten the leg and return to standing. Do 20 pulses in this style. Switch legs and repeat.


Single Leg Squat and Leap


Single Leg Squat and Leap
Targets: Shoulders, obliques, butt, legs
Stand with your legs wider than shoulder width, toes turned out slightly. Hold the ball or weight overhead slightly in front of your forehead, elbows partially bent.  Squat down until you can touch the ball to the floor in between your feet – then spring up to the right, extending the ball over head as the left foot leaves the floor.  Return the ball to the floor between your feet and then spring up to the left, extending the ball overhead until the right foot leaves the floor.  Twist from your trunk as you leap to activate the oblique abdominal muscles. Do 10 reps.  Repeat a second set.

Uneven Pushup

Uneven Pushup
Targets: Chest, triceps, abs
Get in full pushup position with your right palm on the ground and your left palm on top of the ball.  Make sure your left elbow is directly over your left wrist – the body should form a straight line from head to heels. (Beginners can do a modified pushup position with knees on the ground.) Bend elbows and lower yourself toward the ground – then straighten arms and return to starting position.  Do 10 reps. Switch sides, repeat.

Oblique Trunk Twister with weights in the Curl Position
Targets: the full abdominal wall with emphasis on the obliques, the inner thighs.
Start by sitting on the ground with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.  Place the ball between your inner-thighs and hold there.  Holding a 2-pound weight in each hand, roll slowly down to your waist, vertebrae by vertebrae.  Bring fists together near the breast bone.  Rotate trunk from side to side to work the oblique muscles. Do 10 reps.  Repeat 2 sets.

Pretzel Position
Targets chest, biceps, abs, hips, butt
Sit on ground with left knee bent in front of your left hip, right knee bent and positioned behind your right hip. Rotate right hip forward so that the right ankle is higher than the right knee. Place ball on ground in front of your left leg to get started for the basic position.  The next, more advanced level is to press into ball with palms at chest level, shoulders down, elbows out. Lift bent right leg a few inches off ground, then press right leg back.  Be sure to keep the right ankle higher than the knee and the right knee behind the right hip.  If you can’t lift the right knee in the beginning, just slide it along the floor, working to keep the ankle higher than the knee.  Do 2 sets of push backs.  A second variation is to keep the same position and lift the right knee up just enough to clear the floor.  Do 2 sets of 20 lifts.  Switch legs in between sets.

Fred DeVito, Health & Fitness Contributing Editor
For over 30 years, Fred DeVito has taught New Yorkers to live healthier, leading fitness classes at the acclaimed Lotte Berk Method Studios, and more recently, at Exhale Spa, where he serves as Executive Vice President of Mind Body Training. With his wife and partner, Elisabeth Halfpapp . . . Read more about Fred DeVito

Glam New Gym—$20 Membership


As a recent college graduate, I find my desire to hit the gym almost nonexistent. Not to mention that the sky-high prices of a fitness-club membership would practically wipe out my paycheck. Blink Fitness, however, may have just changed forever the way I view the gym.

I had the pleasure of attending the opening of Blink Fitness’ new location right here in New York City’s NoHo area. Blink Fitness Clubs are state-of-the-art and only charge $20 a month for a membership! No, that’s not a typo—it’s really only $20 a month. There are no additional initiation fees. And the best part, you can pay month-to-month. Blink’s deal is very straightforward. There are no classes and no personal trainers, just an amazing facility that’s designed to get you motivated and in great shape. I love this idea, because I rarely take classes at the gym or use the personal trainers. Why should I pay all that extra money for those services, when I just plan to use the treadmill? Give Blink Fitness a shot with its 2-day trial, and see if it’s a good fit for you! —Olivia Hayes

Soul Cycle



SoulCycle is a cycling studio that offers an invigorating cardio workout from the most accomplished spinning teachers in NYC. Whether you want to release stress or greatly improve your aerobic endurance, SoulCycle is the optimal environment. A major calorie-burner, the 45-minute mind-body ride has a zen-element to it and is more about your own journey than competing with your neighbor. A great option for all fitness levels, the teachers instruct a focused yet nurturing class set to inspiring music. Founded by veteran spinning instructor Ruth Zuckerman, and spinning enthusiasts Elizabeth Cutler and Julie Rice, SoulCycle offers a variety of classes that transform indoor cycling into a fresh, new experience.

For more information:


SoulCycle – New York City
117 West 72nd Street

SoulCycle – Bridgehampton
264 Butter Lane

Physique 57



Physique 57 was the brain child of Jennifer Maanavi following the closing of the revolutionary Lotte Berke Method. She partnered with one of the most sought after Lotte instructors and enhanced the method by adding a cardiovascular element more strength/stamina training and a wider variety of exercises. As one of the best work outs in New York City, Physique 57 changes your body in a few weeks. The high-energy workout includes a vigorous series of isometric and weight-bearing exercises as well as orthopedic stretches that strengthen and tone the entire body. There is a variety of classes to choose from (privates, beginner, intermediate, pre-natal and more). Results include long, lean sculpted muscles. The best perk of all is the reduction in your pant size!

For more information:

Physique 57 – New York City
24 West 57th Street, Suite 805

Physique 57 – Bridgehampton
264 Butter Lane Barn


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