Squats and planks on an instructional kitchen counter were just part of the excitement celebrity trainer and author Jim Karas brought to a Geneva wellness center Saturday during an event aiming to help people live healthier lives.
Those who attended the LivingWell Cancer Resource Center's morning of wellness said Karas also excited them with his charismatic speaking style and motivated them with his ideas to boost immunity from illnesses like this year's widespread flu.
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But the countertop squats literally got the crowd of 60 going.
Only Karas, who has written five books including "The Business Plan for the Body" and "The Cardio-Free Diet," stood atop the kitchen counter, but he led his audience in a few slow squats -- first on one leg, then the other.
"I really think you tell your body how you're going to age, how you're going to stay strong," Karas said.
Speaking to a crowd including many cancer patients and survivors, Karas said boosting immunity can help a body battling cancer or anyone who wants to feel younger and more energetic.
Eating foods rich in antioxidants -- mainly fruits and vegetables -- and using strength training to build muscle and increase metabolism were Karas' main suggestions, which he delivered in phrases crafted from appearances on programs such as "The Dr. Oz Show" and "The View."
"Strength training is the fountain of youth," he said. "If you lift, you will last."
Starting a strength-training routine helps prevent muscle loss that occurs with aging, which is important because muscle burns more calories than fat. Every pound of muscle burns six calories a day, while every pound of fat burns two calories a day, he said. The difference adds up.
Karas also advised people to "bookend" their workouts by eating about 100 calories before exercising and a full meal after. He said breakfast should be the largest meal, and suggested people drink protein shakes mixed with fruit to start the day feeling full.
"He was fantastic," said Deb Robinson of South Elgin, a cancer patient who often does not eat breakfast, but said she'll give the protein shake idea a try. "Very motivating."
Ellie Byrnes, a program coordinator for the LivingWell Cancer Resource Center, said the nonprofit facility wanted to host a talk by Karas because his tidbits of advice are changes people can make easily. Byrnes' favorite tip from Karas, whom she met about 20 years ago when he was getting started as a personal trainer in Chicago, is to eat 8 to 10 almonds for a surprisingly filling snack between meals.
"You can take something from what he says no matter what point you're at in your cancer journey," Byrnes said.