Curb Holiday Overeating

The holiday season means feasts, festivities and lots of food. And, if you’re naughty, Santa might bring you an extra five pounds around your waistline.

Now that the Holidays are here, how can families ensure that they don’t overeat and can maintain weight management?

  • Exercise more in the days before the holidays. This will help you burn extra calories that you may eat during holidays or periods of stress.
  • Eat breakfast. This will help control your hunger throughout the day and help you avoid over-indulging.
  • Lighten up the recipes. Try using fat free or sugar free ingredients in your favorite recipes to cut down on the calories.
  • Watch your portion sizes. Skip the temptation of a second helping and enjoy a desert instead. There will be leftovers for tomorrow to enjoy again!
  • Slowly saver your food. Eating slowly will help you to feel full and satisfied without over-indulging.

Everyone overeats sometimes.

If you eat too much, wait until you are hungry again to eat. Rather than continuing to eat out of guilt or by the clock, listen to your body. It probably won’t need food as soon so you may not be hungry for your usual snack or even your next meal. This is key for weight management!

When you get hungry again, ask yourself, “What do I want?” and “What do I need?”  Don’t punish yourself or try to compensate for overeating by restricting yourself. If you try to make yourself eat foods you don’t really want, you’ll feel deprived and fuel your eat-repent-repeat cycle. Trust and respect what your body tells you because it’s likely that it will naturally seek balance, variety, and moderation. You might notice that you’re hungry for something small or something light – maybe a bowl of soup or cereal, a piece of fruit or a salad.

Lastly, don’t use exercise to punish yourself for overeating. Fitness is a fun way to maintain weight management year-round while adding muscle, increasing self-esteem and improving bone and joint health. Be active all the time and use the fuel you consume to live a full and satisfying life that teaches the importance of a healthy, active lifestyle to your children and improves your kids’ health.

Now is probably not the best time to start a diet.  Instead, try to maintain your current weight and make a promise to lose any extra pounds after the holidays by visiting your personal trainer or taking athletic training classes.

Happy holiday eating!

“12 Days of Christmas” Workout

Happy Holidays!

It’s easy to let your workout routine slide during the holiday season. It’s more fun to spend time eating at the buffet and drinking egg nog with friends and family than it is to make time for athletic training.  But, fitness is a yearlong endeavor and New Year’s resolutions are right around the corner.

Have you heard of the “12 Days of Christmas” Workout?  Although challenging, it is a fun way to infuse holiday spirit into an exercise routine for adults – or at a lessened level for a fitness for kids’ activity.

Here’s how it works.  It’s a little different from the song.  For this workout, you’ll be going in reverse order from the song.  Normally, you’d start at the first day, the small number, and go to the last day, the big number.  For this workout, you’ll start with the 12th day and go down from there.

For example, you’ll start with 12 repetitions of the first exercise.  Then, you’ll go for 12 of the first exercise again, 11 of the second, etc.  Start over with 12 reps of the first exercise, 11 of the second, and 10 of the third.  Keep repeating just like that until you’ve done all 12 exercises.  When you’re done, you will have completed 650 total reps.

Here are my thoughts for a “12 Days of Christmas” Workout routine along with a link to a video explaining how to properly complete each exercise:

12 squats

11 butt kicks (1 minute)

10 oblique V-sit ups

9 Everest climbers

8 frog jumps

7 side lunges

6 chair dips (You will need a chair or ledge.)

5 laying down bicycles (5 intervals of 20 seconds)

4 Supermans

3 V-sit (30 seconds)

2 dive bomber push-ups

1 minute plank

Have a fun – and fit – holiday season!

Fitness for Health can help you build a healthier body by creating a customized, exercise regimen that addresses your – and your kids’ – unique concerns this holiday season.  Whether you want to work on weight management, tone, build muscle, increase flexibility or improve your athletic training, we can help you reach your goals!  Learn how we can help your family lose weight and combat childhood obesity today!

If Your Child Isn’t Getting Enough Sleep – He May Have Other Unhealthy Habits

Did you know that the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that children 6 to 12 years of age sleep 9-12 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health?  And, teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep 8-10 hours?

Recently published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, a new study conducted among more than 177,000 students suggests that insufficient sleep duration is associated with an unhealthy lifestyle profile among children and adolescents.

The study states, “Results show that insufficient sleep duration was associated with unhealthy dietary habits such as skipping breakfast (adjusted odds ratio 1.30), fast-food consumption (OR 1.35) and consuming sweets regularly (OR 1.32). Insufficient sleep duration also was associated with increased screen time (OR 1.26) and being overweight/obese (OR 1.21).”

“Approximately 40 percent of schoolchildren in the study slept less than recommended,” said senior author Labros Sidossis, PhD, distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Kinesiology and Health at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. “Insufficient sleeping levels were associated with poor dietary habits, increased screen time and obesity in both genders.”

“The most surprising finding was that aerobic fitness was associated with sleep habits,” said Sidossis. “In other words, better sleep habits were associated with better levels of aerobic fitness. We can speculate that adequate sleep results in higher energy levels during the day. Therefore, children who sleep well are maybe more physically active during the day and hence have higher aerobic capacity.”

So, how can a parent encourage good sleep habits in their children?

  • Make sure your child doesn’t eat a heavy meal before bedtime.  Snacks should be eaten at least 30 minutes before bedtime to ensure he or she has time to burn off calories and extra sugar.  And, remember, no caffeine or sugary snacks!
  • Regulate.  I know that you’ve heard this a million times, but keep your child’s sleep routine consistent.  Establish a consistent and relaxing bedtime routine that lasts between 20 and 30 minutes and ends in your child’s bedroom.  Avoid scary stories or TV shows. It’s better to read a favorite book every night than a new one because it’s familiar.
  • Teach your child calming techniques so the worries of the day – or about tomorrow’s test – don’t interfere with his sleeping.  If your child has a tendency to worry, ensure homework is done at least one hour before bedtime and that he has a chance to ask you to proofread it.  The earlier homework is completed, the more opportunity he has to ask you for help and the less worried he will be during the night.  Create a nightly study routine and stick to it!

I wish you good luck and sweet dreams tonight!

Fitness for Health creates unique exercise programs based on a child’s individual fitness goals.  Want to combat childhood obesity? Aspiring to improve your child’s athletic edge?  No problem!  Fitness for Health can you help you and your loved ones reach your full potential.

Eat Heart Healthy This Holiday Season

Thanksgiving is only two days away and it’s time to start thinking about our holiday eating habits.

The holiday temptation of cookies, cake, pie and sweets begins at Thanksgiving and doesn’t end until after the new year when many people vow to lose weight as part of their New Year’s Resolutions.

A study published in Journal of the American Medical Association gives us yet another reason to eat healthy and avoid adult and childhood obesity this holiday season.

People with an irregular heart rhythm could see an improvement in symptoms if they lose weight in addition to managing their other heart risks, says the study.  Researchers found that people who steadily lost more than 30 pounds and kept their other health conditions in check saw greater improvements in atrial fibrillation symptoms than those who just managed their other health conditions without trying to lose weight.

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a type of rhythm disorder affecting the heart’s upper chambers.  It can be caused by a number of issues – including heart attacks, infections and heart valve problems.  Adult and childhood obesity is a risk factor for AF, as are high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Is it possible to eat “heart healthy” at Thanksgiving dinner and eat well?  Yes!

  • Control your portion size. How much you eat is just as important as what you eat. Overloading your plate, taking seconds and eating until you feel stuffed can lead to eating more calories, fat and cholesterol than you should.
  • Understand serving sizes. A serving size is a specific amount of food, defined by common measurements such as cups, ounces, or pieces—and a healthy serving size may be a lot smaller than you’re used to. Remember this at the buffet – the recommended serving size for pasta is ½ cup, while a serving of meat, fish, or chicken is 2 to 3 ounces (57-85 grams).
  • Eat more fruits and veggies. Vegetables and fruits are good sources of vitamins and minerals. Vegetables and fruits are also low in calories and rich in dietary fiber. Vegetables and fruits contain substances found in plants that may help prevent cardiovascular disease. Eating more fruits and vegetables may help you eat less high-fat foods, such as meat, cheese and snack foods at the holiday party.
  • Limit unhealthy fats. The best way to reduce trans fats in your diet is to limit the amount of solid fats — butter, margarine and shortening — you consume. You can also reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet by trimming the fat off your holiday steak.
  • Change your holiday habits. The best way to avoid saturated fats is to change your lifestyle practices. Instead of chips, snack on fruit or vegetables as hors d’oeuvres.

As the holidays approach, be realistic. Now is probably not the best time to start a diet.  Instead, try to maintain your current weight and make a promise to lose any extra pounds after the holidays by visiting your personal trainer or taking advantage of Fitness for Health’s exergaming programs.

Plan time for exercise. Exercise helps relieve holiday stress and prevents weight gain.  A moderate and daily increase in exercise can help partially offset increased holiday eating. Try 10- or 15-minute brisk walks twice a day.

Most importantly, enjoy the holidays with your family and friends and make healthy eating choices without denying yourself your favorite foods in the buffets!

To learn how Fitness for Health can help you make time for exercise this season, please visit or call 301-231-7138.

Men – Do You Want Healthy Kids in the Future? Exercise Now

Most parents know that the diet and exercise habits of a pregnant woman impacts the health of her baby, but little is known about how a father’s health choices are passed to his children. A new study finds that lifestyle practices of fathers prior to conception may have a major impact on the lifelong health of their children.

As detailed in the journal, Diabetes, in a new study led by Kristin Stanford, a physiology and cell biology researcher with The Ohio State University College of Medicine at the Wexner Medical Center, and Laurie Goodyear of the Joslin Diabetes Center and Harvard Medical School, paternal exercise had a significant impact on the metabolic health of offspring well into their adulthood.

“Here’s what’s really interesting; offspring from the dads fed a high-fat diet fared worse, so they were more glucose intolerant. But exercise negated that effect,” Stanford said. “When the dad exercised, even on a high-fat diet, we saw improved metabolic health in their adult offspring.”

Stanford’s team also found that exercise caused changes in the genetic expression of the father’s sperm that suppress poor dietary effects and transfer to the offspring.

“Based on both studies, we’re now determining if both parents exercising has even greater effects to improve metabolism and overall health of offspring. If translated to humans, this would be hugely important for the health of the next generation,” Goodyear said.

The researchers believe the results support the hypothesis that small RNAs could help transmit parental environmental information to the next generation.

“There’s potential for this to translate to humans. We know that in adult men obesity impairs testosterone levels, sperm number and motility, and it decreases the number of live births,” Stanford said. “If we ask someone who’s getting ready to have a child to exercise moderately, even for a month before conception, that could have a strong effect on the health of their sperm and the long-term metabolic health of their children.”

Are you worried about the health of your future children? Make fitness fun NOW – before your kids are born – and they’ll grow up learning that playing is a form of fitness.

I have worked with families and young children for more than 30 years as the founder and owner of Fitness for Health, a therapeutic fitness facility utilizing cutting-edge technology to help children and adults reach their full, physical potential.  I know firsthand that the power of play cannot be underestimated.

Fitness should be fun.  Would you rather run on a treadmill or play a pick-up game of basketball with your buddies at the park? Would you prefer to do chin-ups or admire the beautiful autumn leaves by taking a hike with your loved one?

Make fitness fun! Your future kids will thank you for spending valuable time with them making lifelong memories and your kids’ health – and your health – will improve while combating obesity. It’s a win-win for your future family!

Are you in need of fitness assistance?  Fitness for Health can help you create a healthy, active lifestyle while having fun.  We offer customized exercise programs designed to fit your exact needs and help you reach your unique health goals. And, we offer family workouts so families can become active together.  Attend our free, Open House for Prospective Families on Sunday, December 2, from 5pm – 6pm to learn about our athletic training, therapeutic exercise, occupational therapy and physical therapy offerings. Visit to learn about our programs or call us at 301-231-7138.

Stopping Bullying in the Special Needs Community

In honor of this week’s celebration of Anti-Bullying Week, let’s highlight bullying in the special needs community.  Whether face-to-face, nasty notes, harassing cell phone voicemails or cyber stalking, bullying has become an epidemic.

There are numerous statistics about childhood bullying and its growth in the computer age.  We know with certainty that bullying of children with disabilities is significant but, unfortunately, there has been very little research to document the harassment of this population segment.

Only 10 U.S. studies have been conducted on the connection between bullying and developmental disabilities, but all of these studies found that children with special needs were two to three times more likely to be bullied than their peers.  According to PACER’S National Bullying Prevention Center, one study has shown that 60 percent of students with disabilities report being bullied regularly compared with 25 percent of total students.

This should be disheartening to each of us and should act as a wake-up call to government legislators, educators and parents.

Because bullying involves an imbalance of physical or psychological power, students with special needs are especially vulnerable and frequently targeted.  For example, in the fall of 2009, responses to a Massachusetts Advocates for Children online survey asked about the extent of bullying against children on the autism spectrum.  Nearly 90 percent of parents responded that their children had been bullied. These findings are applicable to most students with disabilities.

All children deserve to feel safe in school.  The Federation for Children with Special Needs lists a few ways parents can support a child with special needs who is being bullied:

  • Tell your child that this is not his or her fault, and that your child did nothing wrong.
  • Gently emphasize that above all, your child should not retaliate or attempt to fight or hit the bully.
  • Role-play ignoring the bully or walking away.
  • With your child, make a list of adults in school he or she can go to for help, such as counselors or administrators.
  • Arrange for him or her to see friends on the weekends, and plan fun activities with the family.

Children and young adults with learning disabilities and special needs are undoubtedly at increased risk of being bullied.  And, unfortunately, a person’s disability can make it difficult to identify the type of bullying that is occurring. It is important for both teachers and parents to take the time to clearly define and describe bullying behaviors for children with special needs, so they can identify bullying and notify adults if they experience or witness bullying.

We, as a society, have somehow moved away from teaching our children about empathy and compassion. We, as parents and educators, have moved far away from teaching kids that, just because someone is different, it does not mean that they are a target to bully and tease.

As a person with A.D.D. and the founder of  Fitness for Health, a therapeutic, exercise facility for children and adults with special needs in the Washington, DC, Region , I believe that we need to relearn and re-emphasize respect and human decency for everyone. It is every parent and educator’s responsibility to speak to our kids about why some people are different and answer any questions that they have openly and honestly.  Only then, we may have the opportunity to create happier and healthier kids at school and less bullying.

Fitness for Health is proud to offer fitness programs created specifically for the special needs community that help improve self-esteem, weight management and kids’ health while helping children reach their full potential.

Areas of improvement may include:

  • Functional movement / play skills
  • Gross motor function and coordination
  • Crossing the midline
  • Mental processing
  • Motor planning and motor sequencing
  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Locomotor skills
  • Visual motor/perceptual motor skills
  • Proprioception and balance
  • Age-appropriate social skills
  • And more

Are the Midterm Elections Stressing You Out? Exercise

Are the statewide and national elections stressing you out? Try exercising.

The endless hours of news coverage about the “fate of national politics” and potential xenophobia have taken a toll on the mental health of many Americans, causing stress levels to be exacerbated. The daily coverage that has been impossible not to watch is leaving many adults – especially senior citizens – feeling depressed and afraid for their personal state of affairs.

Therapists contend that the anxiety is real, especially given the other stresses of daily, normal life.

“There is an overall feeling of doom, dread and apprehension,” said Robin Morris, a therapist at Brook Lane of North Village in Hagerstown, Maryland, about previous elections. “I have many clients who say, ‘We are doomed.’ Their regular struggles have become magnified…”

Exercise may improve mental health by helping the brain cope better with stress, according to research into the effect of exercise on neurochemicals involved in the body’s stress response.

Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects.

In my experience as a Certified Athletic Trainer and the owner of Fitness for Health, a therapeutic, exercise facility working with children through senior citizens in the Washington, DC, area, I have seen firsthand how routine physical activity can help prevent and treat depression while stabilizing mood, which in turn contributes to the motivation needed to keep exercising.  It is scientifically proven that exercising can improve your mental and physical health alike.

Additionally, the meditation app, Headspace, started offering a new “Politics Pack” for free this week with meditations to help you cope through midterm elections stress.  None of the meditation exercises are expressly political, nor do they cater to a specific political position. Instead, they offer ways to cope with some of the feelings you might experience when reading political news.

So, what are you waiting for? Take a break from watching the election results tonight and invite your family to walk around the block with you, play on the neighborhood playground or do a few yoga stretches during a CNN commercial break. You need to take a few minutes to just breathe and remember that, no matter who wins the elections tonight, you are ultimately in control of your own destiny.

To learn how Fitness for Health can help you improve your mind-body connection utilizing state-of-the-art fitness technology, visit or call 301-231-7138.

Don’t Be Scared Of These Halloween Fitness Games

Witches and goblins and ghouls! Oh my!  Traditionally, Halloween isn’t known as a fitness holiday, to say the least.  But, with a little imagination, Halloween can be an exciting holiday – and a great day to add a little fun to your exercise routine – for the whole family.

As the founder of Fitness for Health, a therapeutic, fitness facility for children through senior citizens in the Washington, DC, area, Marc Sickel is happy to recommend a few tips to add some “character” to your family’s workout.

  • Have you ever played, “Plants vs. Zombies?” The goal is to place plants/obstacles in the way of zombies before they can enter your home.  Take a cue from this popular game and create your own backyard version.  Designate an area of the yard as the “house.”  It can even be your real house!  This will serve as the base.  Then, select one person to serve as the homeowner.  The rest of the family will be “zombies.”  The homeowner will create an obstacle course so the zombies have trouble invading the house.  If the zombies can maneuver the obstacle course and successfully reach the “home” before a set time, the zombies win.  Then, the homeowner becomes a zombie and a new homeowner is selected.
  • Play mummy! Use the obstacle course that you created for “Plants vs. Zombies.”  Split the family into two groups – “mummies” and “masters.”  Each mummy needs to be blindfolded so the master can verbally tell the mummy how to maneuver the course.  Each team takes a turn separately and, in between races, the family should rearrange the obstacle course so each team has a new course.  This prevents teams from hearing the directions and getting an upper hand as the games play on.  This fun game not only teaches teamwork but also relies on following verbal directions.
  • Do your kids like treasure hunts? Try a ghost hunt!  Create a list of Halloween-inspired objects to find within a 15 minute period.  The kids/”little ghosts” have to run as fast as they can to collect as many listed objects as possible and sprint back to the home base/”haunted house.”
  • Try broom racing! Leave sack racing to the annual family picnic.  Halloween is a great time to put a spooky spin on a family favorite.  Each racer should place a broom or stick between his/her legs and run or hop to a designated finish line.  What a great photo opportunity to remember your family holiday!
  • Survive the spider web maze. Is it too cold to play outdoors?  Create a lazer maze-like game in your hallway.  Create a maze out of cray paper that looks like a spider web.  Each family member has to weave his/her way through the spider maze without breaking the web.  Which family member is the fastest “fly” to climb over or under the web and survive?

Don’t forget that it takes imagination to create a Halloween costume – and a fun, inspired fitness program!  Happy Haunting!

The family that plays together; stays together!  To learn about fun, fitness programs designed specifically to improve kids’ health, increase adult bone and joint health for parents, and help kids reach their full athletic potential, join us on Sunday, November 4, from 5pm – 6pm for a free tour of Fitness for Health’s therapeutic and training facility during our Open House.

Exercise Helps Cognition

A new British Journal of Psychology study has looked at the details behind how cognitive performance may improve during aerobic exercise.

The investigators found that both aerobic exercise and upright posture improved visual working memory compared with passive and seated conditions. Their analyses also suggest where the neural origins of these observed effects take place.

“Our findings hold implications not only for the field of cognitive psychology, wherein our knowledge has been primarily derived from seated, resting participants, but also for our understanding of cognitive performance at large. Although modern society has evolved to become more and more sedentary, our brains may nevertheless perform best while our bodies are active,” said lead author Dr. Thomas Töllner, of Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich.

Whether you are young or young-at-heart, regular exercise is more important than ever to your body and mind.  And, fitness for seniors – and those of us who are baby boomers – can be fun!

Not only is exercise is good for your heart, it’s also good for your brain. Exercising when young and fitness for seniors benefits regular brain functions and can help keep the brain active, which can prevent memory loss, cognitive decline, and dementia. Any exercise that gets the heart pumping may reduce the risk of dementia and slow the condition’s progression once it starts, reports a Mayo Clinic study published in October 2011 in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

So, I want to see you in the gym! Or, at least, walking a few quick laps around your office hallways.

About Fitness for Health:

Fitness for Health creates unique exercise programs based on a person’s individual fitness goals.  Do you want to lose weight, focus on weight management as an adult or combat childhood obesity?  Interested in toning your body?  Aspiring to improve your athletic edge?  No problem!  Whether you are a child or a senior citizen, Fitness for Health can you help you and your loved ones reach your full potential.

“Chemo Brain”

In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I’d like to highlight “Chemo Brain” today.

If you or a loved one has suffered through breast cancer, you may have heard of “Chemo Brain.”  This is a common term used by cancer survivors to describe thinking and memory problems that can occur after cancer treatment.  After chemo, people commonly feel foggy and cognitive abilities can suffer.

A 2015 study suggests that aerobic exercise can fight the effects of “Chemo Brain.”  The study included 20 women who were on average 53 years old, had been treated for breast cancer within the past three years and had reported cognitive difficulties.  The researchers instructed half of the participants to exercise for six months, while the other half didn’t exercise and served as controls for the study.

“The results showed that compared to the control group, the women who exercised had improvements in several parts of the psychological tests, including verbal fluency, visual attention and switching between tasks. They also reported better quality of life and improvements in their thinking and memory,” according to the study that was presented at the 2015 annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Oncology.

Additionally, aerobic exercise can combat fatigue in cancer patients and survivors while increasing quality of life.

The American Cancer Society explains how exercise can help during and after cancer treatment:

  • Keep or improve your physical abilities (how well you can use your body to do things)
  • Improve balance, lower risk of falls and broken bones
  • Keep muscles from wasting due to inactivity
  • Lower the risk of heart disease
  • Lessen the risk of osteoporosis (weak bones that are more likely to break)
  • Improve blood flow to your legs and lower the risk of blood clots
  • Make you less dependent on others for help with normal activities of daily living
  • Improve your self-esteem
  • Lower the risk of being anxious and depressed
  • Lessen nausea
  • Improve your ability to keep social contacts
  • Lessen symptoms of tiredness (fatigue)
  • Help you control your weight
  • Improve your quality of life

A growing number of studies have looked at the impact of physical activity on cancer recurrence and long-term survival. Exercise has been shown to improve cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength, body composition, fatigue, anxiety, depression, self-esteem, happiness and several quality of life factors in cancer survivors.  According to the American Cancer Society’s website, “At least 20 studies of people with breast, colorectal, prostate and ovarian cancer have suggested that physically active cancer survivors have a lower risk of cancer recurrence and improved survival compared with those who are inactive.”

If you have been affected by cancer, it is critical that you maintain physical activity.  In the short-term, exercise may be the last thing on your mind and you may feel that you are too tired to begin a fitness program.  In the long-term, if you battle through the fatigue, you will gain energy, achieve better self-image and regain your cognitive abilities.

Do you need help taking the first step? Whether you are looking for a fitness for seniors program or to improve your bone and joint health, Fitness for Health’s one-on-one, exercise programs can help strengthen your body and your mind. Visit for more information.