“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 www.FitnessForHealth.org for more information.

Virtual Reality Increases Exercise Performance

Using Virtual Reality (VR) headsets while exercising can reduce pain and increase how long someone can sustain an activity, according to new research.

The research, led by PhD candidate Maria Matsangidou from EDA, set out to determine how using VR while exercising could affect performance by measuring a raft of criteria: heart rate, including pain intensity, perceived exhaustion, time to exhaustion and private body consciousness.

The results showed “a clear reduction in perception of pain” and effort when using VR technology. The data showed that after a minute the VR group had reported a pain intensity that was 10% lower than the non-VR group.

The improvements shown by the VR group suggest that it could be a “possible way to encourage less active people to exercise by reducing the perceived pain that exercise can cause and improving performance, regardless of private body consciousness.”

Lead researcher Maria Matsangidou said, “It is clear from the data gathered that the use of VR technology can improve performance during exercise on a number of criteria. This could have major implications for exercise regimes for everyone, from occasional gym users to professional athletes.”

As the founder of Fitness for Health, a therapeutic, exercise facility working with children through senior citizens in the Washington, DC, area, I have seen firsthand the power of exergaming (“exergaming” combines the fun of video games, cutting-edge, high-tech equipment and other creative tools with proven fitness tactics) and technology to improve hand-eye coordination and even weight management in all age groups – while having fun.

I’ve seen the positive effects firsthand for both kids and adults.  It’s that feeling that you’re playing a game – not working out – which is at the heart of exergaming’s popularity.

I look at exergaming as stealth exercise.  Whether a player uses a dance game, a geo-tracking app on their iPhone or pretends to be playing in the World Cup using Wii, he/she is getting exercise without realizing it and having fun.  And, shouldn’t working out be fun in order to capture a child’s ongoing attention and maintain our adult enthusiasm for athletic training?

Would you like to learn more about the benefits of exergaming?  Whether you are a person with special needs (occupational therapy, physical therapy, therapeutic exercise), a weekend warrior, someone that wants to get into better shape, in need of weight control, an athlete at any level seeking to improve their game  – – exergaming can help and in a big way!  Call us at 301-231-7138 to try exergaming firsthand.

HIIT Training Lowers Risk for Chronic Disease

A few minutes of high-intensity interval (HIIT) or sprinting exercise may be as effective as much longer exercise sessions in spurring beneficial improvements in mitochondrial function, according to new research. The small study is published ahead of print in the American Journal of Physiology — Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology.

The report explains, “Mitochondria, the energy centers of the cells, are essential for good health. Previous research has found that exercise creates new mitochondria and improves the function of existing mitochondria. Altered mitochondrial function in response to a single session of exercise generates signals that may lead to beneficial changes in the cells, lowering the risk for chronic disease. High-intensity interval exercise consists of short bursts of high-intensity aerobic exercise — physical activity that raises the heart rate — alternating with brief recovery periods. Whether the intensity of a workout affects mitochondrial response is unclear.”

HIIT training is a great way to get your strength sessions and aerobic exercise at the same time. Super-efficient HIIT is the ideal workout for a busy schedule—whether you want to squeeze in a workout during your lunch break or to get in shape for a fast-approaching event. Research shows you can achieve more progress in a mere 15 minutes of interval training (done three times a week) than jogging on a treadmill for an hour. And according to a 2011 study presented at the American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting, just 2 weeks of high-intensity intervals improves your aerobic capacity as much as 6 to 8 weeks of endurance training.

Are you ready to take your athletic training to the next level and train like a professional athlete? Call Fitness for Health at 301-231-7138 or visit www.FitnessForHealth.org to learn how we can help you become stronger, faster and more explosive using our EDGE Training Program.

Strength Training Fights Childhood Obesity

Encouraging young people to do strength-based exercises — such as squats, push-ups and lunges — could play a key role in tackling child obesity, research suggests.

Taking part in exercises that cause muscles to contract, and strengthen muscles and bones, was found to reduce children’s body fat percentage.  The findings also suggests an increase in muscle mass — gained from strength-based exercises — could help boost children’s metabolism and energy levels.

How can parents encourage their children to be physically from the time they’re born?  In my opinion, make physical activities and games FUN for the whole family!  The key to successful participation is creativity and positive reinforcement as well as scheduling a regular time during the week as “family playtime” so children will learn to emulate their parents.  Families need to work – and play – together to enhance physical fitness while building stronger relationships.  With an integrated approach, parents, grandparents and children can create fun, recreational games that also increase self-esteem – and help families bond – while increasing kids’ physical activity.

  • Celebrate the beginning of autumn and get moving! Schedule one afternoon a week for the family to do yard work together.  (Even if your toddler just plays in the dirt with sticks.)  Studies show that you can burn about 350 calories an hour mowing the lawn or 175 calories for 30 minutes of raking the last of the summer leaves.  Not only will you get a great workout, your yard will look great too.
  • Rest.  Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have found a correlation between childhood obesity and the amount of sleep a child receives each night.  The fewer hours of nightly sleep, the higher the risk for becoming overweight or obese.
  • Focus on your child’s health, not his weight. Childhood and adolescence are difficult enough for most children and self-esteem can suffer – especially if the child is heavier.  Parents can help by making sure their kids are active and learn to make good food choices.
  • Help kids read between the lines. Toby Smithson, RDN, CDE, founder of com and coauthor of the new book, Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition for Dummies, explains that it’s key to teach kids, even from a very young age, to be food media literate. “It’s important for parents and children to understand food advertising and to take a stand against it by not always giving in to it, Smithson says. Because children are exposed to thousands of hours of targeted advertising for fast food, snacks, and sugar-sweetened cereal, Smithson urges parents to help their kids read between the lines of food marketing strategies. (You can learn more about food marketing and children by checking out Food Marketing to Youth and other info from Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.)
  • Play actively. It’s critical to keep your kids moving throughout the day as much as possible (and to join in on the fun when you can). Physical activity naturally stimulates chemicals that help clear glucose out of the blood and helps to prevent diabetes.  For most kids, 60 minutes or more of physical activity is recommended daily. (For more ideas to help your kids – and entire family – stay fit, check out Tips for Getting Active by the National Heart Lung, & Blood Institute (NHLBI)).

Obesity among the young isn’t a problem that’s going to magically fix itself. Make a difference in your kids’ lives and get moving – as a family!

Is your family in need of fitness assistance?  Fitness for Health can help your family 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.  Visit www.FitnessForHealth.org to learn about our programs or call us at 301-231-7138.

American Obesity is Rising in 7 States

Seven states in America had obesity rates among adults at or above 35 percent. This record number is an increase from five states in 2016.

In addition to the increase, no state had a significant improvement in its obesity rate over the past year, according to the annual State of Obesity 2018: Better Policies for a Healthier America report. The report, now in its 15th year, is published by the Trust for America’s Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The report states, “Between 2016 and 2017, there were increases in obesity in six states. Currently, 48 states have adult obesity rates exceeding 25 percent. The report found that at least 20 percent of adults are obese in every state.”

Scary.

I understand that maintaining weight management is difficult and not everyone is enthusiastic about athletic training. But, adult obesity is on the rise again – which means childhood obesity is quickly becoming the number one health problem for today’s youth.

What can be done?

As the founder of Fitness for Health, a therapeutic, exercise facility for children and adults in the Washington, DC, Region, and a certified athletic trainer for almost 30 years, in my opinion, make physical activities and games FUN for the whole family!  The key to successful participation is creativity and positive reinforcement as well as scheduling a regular time during the week as “family playtime” so kids will learn to emulate their parents and the whole family can enjoy maintaining weight management TOGETHER!

Families need to work – and play – together to enhance physical fitness while building stronger relationships.  With an integrated approach, parents, grandparents and children can create fun, recreational games that also increase self-esteem – and help families bond – while improving your bone and joint health, losing weight, getting older family members thinking about fitness for seniors and encouraging younger family members to participate in varied activities to improve kids’ health.

Looking for a fun activity for the whole family? Make fitness fun and schedule a Family Workout! Pretend you are on your own impossible mission and try to navigate our laser maze without breaking a laser beam! Chase lights and make them disappear on our Light Floor and Wall! Climb a rock wall or two…in our glow-in-the-dark room! Jump to your heart’s content on our 30′ long trampoline and so much more! Call us at 301-231-7138 to learn more.

Do you have a family member who has special needs? Does he or she like to dance? Join us on Friday nights (until 11/9) from 6pm – 7pm for ZamDance – a high impact dance fitness program for children and adults with developmental differences. Meet other families and make new friends while having fun dancing and burning calories in our glow-in-the-dark gym.  Register today at https://fitnessforhealth.org/classes-events/register-now/.

What’s In Your Child’s Lunchbox?

Happy second week of school to students in Maryland and happy third week of school to most of the families in the D.C. area!

Back-to-school time is the perfect opportunity to speak to your children about healthy food choices and kids’ health.

Buying lunch at school may be the first time that kids get to call the shots on which foods they’ll eat. Luckily, there’s been a nationwide effort to improve the taste and nutrition levels in school lunches.  But, some food options served at school are still exceeding recommendations for fat and leading to the childhood obesity epidemic. In the typical school cafeteria, kids can still choose an unhealthy mix of foods, especially the less nutritious fare often available a la carte or in the vending machine.

If your child will choose an item from the lunch line, encourage him or her to make good choices by incorporating fruits and veggies and trying a variety of foods.  (Chicken nuggets may be tasty, but eating them each day won’t give your child an opportunity to try new foods that he/she may love.)

If your child will brown bag it, enlist your child’s help to make lunch!  Treat this bonding moment as a chance to instill healthy food choices in your child while having fun making creative fare.  Does your child love “Toy Story”?  Make cucumber slices that look like aliens.  Does your daughter like flowers?  Make a PB & J sandwich on wheat bread that is shaped like a daisy. Is your son excited by military planes? Create a plane-shaped sandwich using a cookie cutter and add organic raspberries and blueberries to a handful of marshmallows to make a patriotic red, white and blue lunch!

Your imaginations your only limits! Begin the school year by reminding children that food can be fun while being nutritious and can stave off childhood obesity. And, the best part? You’re creating lifelong memories and laying the foundation of your child’s future, healthy, active lifestyle.

Are you looking for your child and/or teen to get off the couch and prepare for the new school year?  No matter what your child’s level—beginner to varsity athlete—Fitness for Health will create a custom children’s fitness program just for him or her. Our gym is a safe yet super-fun environment where kids are inspired and motivated to push themselves harder.  Learn more about our programs and services at our next open house on Sunday, October 7, at 5pm.

Have a happy and safe new school year!

Begin the School Year by Celebrating Recess

Happy first day of school to many students – and their families – within the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. area!

Are you celebrating the new school year by recognizing the importance of recess?

When I was a child, recess was a critical staple during the school day. Some of my fondest memories were playing tag or basketball with my buddies during our two or three recess breaks a day. Yes, I grew up having multiple play breaks throughout the school day, and I believe ALL children should have movement breaks throughout the day to help them better deal with the stress of school’s test performance focus.

It seems like many elementary schools are unfortunately forgetting to allow kids to be kids and that play is a critical part of the learning process.

I find it sad that it is national news when schools have the common sense to keep recess top-of-mind.  Although I applaud those elementary schools for their continued concern for their students’ needs, I am concerned that there’s still a national trend to eliminate recess altogether.

Eagle Mountain Elementary in Fort Worth, Texas began giving their kindergarten and first grade students two 15-minute breaks every morning and two 15-minute breaks every afternoon. They also added an extra 15 minute break in the afternoon for all other grades, making it two recess breaks instead of one. At first, teachers were worried about losing precious classroom time, but after about five months they noticed the kids were actually learning more because the extra time outside to burn off energy made them better able to focus in class.”

Additionally, congratulations to Prince William, Virginia, for recognizing the importance of recess.  When the school rings, elementary students will get twice as much exercise and unstructured time during the school day.  A new Virginia law, which went into effect on July 1, allows school systems to count recess as part of the instructional day. Until now, the law only dictated how many hours of instruction were needed, and school systems had to squeeze-in recess.  Under the new law, local school boards can include “unstructured recreational time that is intended to develop teamwork, social skills, and overall physical fitness,” for up to 15 percent of the required 680 hours of instructional time.  “We’ve long understood the benefits of exercise and unstructured activity for student learning, health, and wellbeing,” said Prince William County Schools superintendent Steve Walts. “This new law means we’re free to build those benefits into the daily instructional time that Virginia requires.”

Like I said, this should be common sense for our education systems.

A lack of recess or a physical outlet in the classroom is detrimental not only to our children’s sense of adventure, exploration and way to fend off childhood obesity while improving kids’ health, but also to their academic well-being.

The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees. In a 2013 policy statement, they stated, “Recess…should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.” Not for any reason.

Parents of elementary school-aged students should be concerned about the national trend to eliminate recess breaks. Recess is strongly recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Association for Sports and Physical Education and the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education.

According to “Cutting Recess Isn’t the Answer to Higher Test Scores,” The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has stated that “recess is unique from structured physical education and is a necessary part of child development.  Research in the fields of child development and physical activity has revealed the importance of this period of socialization and play to those eager to eliminate it in favor of academics.” The benefits of recess include:

  • Cognitive and academic benefits. Unstructured free time gives children a chance to refocus and refresh between more structured learning activities. It been shown in several studies that children who are allowed this kind of break are more attentive and productive in the classroom.  A groundbreaking study using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study data set found that children age 8 to 9 who received a daily recess of 15 minutes or more had better behavior (as assessed by teachers) than did peers who received fewer than 15 minutes of recess.
  • Social and emotional benefits. Recess is a time for children to experiment with social interactions with their peers and practice skills like conflict resolution, negotiation, self-control, and cooperation. Traditionally, recess is a time when children are able to choose their activities, socialize in their desired groups, and negotiate the structure and rules of games and activities.
  • Physical benefits. The benefits of physical activity for children are well-established in the literature, but fewer than half of children ages 6 to 11 meet the U.S. Surgeon General’s recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Reductions in available recreation time in schools, including recess, is cited in the newly released F as in Fat report as a contributor to childhood obesity.  The AAP notes that even though not all children are vigorously active at recess, the provision of unstructured play does “provide the opportunity for children to be active in the mode of their choosing” and, importantly, “affords young children free activity for the sheer joy of it.”

I wholeheartedly believe that movement and exercise at recess is the key to learning. For almost 30 years, at my gym I’ve combined fitness and basic math facts to help maintain the physical fitness and cognitive abilities of my clients aged 3 – 100, and every day I see “miracles” and achievements occur.

Bringing movement into classrooms – or at least during recess – will not only increase learning, but will make classrooms healthier and happier places to learn while showcasing the importance of physical activity and leading healthy, active lifestyles to improve kids’ health.

If you’re ready to improve student fitness, self-confidence, and teamwork at your school, turn to the experts at Fitness for Health. Call (301) 231-7138 or e-mail us to learn more our recess initiatives.  We can help you create a more inclusive playground experience with our on-site recess programs, which are proven to inspire children of all abilities to play together.  Fitness for Health will work with you, your faculty or your parent group to create a totally custom program for your school’s unique needs.

Back-to-School Fitness for Moms

The importance of improving fitness skills cannot be underestimated.  Many adults with low levels of interest in physical activity are often found to have decreased self-confidence.  The American Heart Association has shown that physically active people show improvements in a wide variety of measures of psychological well-being – including self-esteem.

A great way to “freshen up” your workout routine is to include yoga.  Yoga can be practiced year round, inside or outside, as long as you have a mat.  Enjoy the last days of beautiful summer weather!  Take your routine outdoors so that you can absorb the fresh air and sunshine while you work your muscles.

This is the ideal exercise for busy women on the go who can’t tolerate high impact exercise such as running. Not only will your self-esteem improve – because you will see results – your overall mindset will improve too. Your mental health will benefit as you learn to breathe and relax – which is especially important during the chaos of preparing your children to head back to school.  Less stress means you are better able to handle life’s everyday little crises and it will help you to take a little time to focus on yourself and your personal needs.

Moms, do you want to reach your full, physical potential this school year?  Fitness for Health offers adult, fitness and weight management, athletic training and development, physical therapy and bone and joint health programs using bioDensity™ and Power Plate® technology.

Do your kids need a little extra confidence going into the new school year? We can help! At Fitness for Health, we design our kids’ health and fitness for kids programs to help children develop the skills—and the self-confidence—they need for real life. We do it through our unique Success Builds Success approach, which encourages children learn to take new risks through small, achievable—and wildly fun—challenges.

Our programs are designed to help children shape the skills that other fitness for kids programs tend to ignore, including mental processing, motor planning, visual information processing and proprioception (the ability to innately sense your body’s position, movement and spatial orientation) in addition to offering weight management for kids.

Have a happy and safe new school year! Namaste!

Managing Back-to-School Stress

The stress of a new school year can make you forget some of the benefits of being a parent. It’s an adjustment time for you and your child. Keeping your child safe, healthy and happy during the school year becomes your number one priority. Here are some back-to-school tips to make the transition a little easier and a lot healthier.

Preparation is always the key to diminishing stress. Whether it is purchasing the correct tools, getting tasks done ahead of time or instilling healthy habits in your children, preparation will help you breathe easier.

Here are a few tips:

  • Arm yourself with school supplies before the first day. Grab an extra school supply list. Most of the time, they are at various stores. Parents can just pick them up as they enter. Hold off buying anything until after you meet the teacher. Show the list to her and ask if there is any addition or elimination, and change it accordingly.
  • Make a trial run this week. Take a trial run on getting up early at least five days before school. This helps with solidifying the new schedule and is proven to help prevent cranky kids.
  • Have a family meeting. If you are planning changes with anything at all, have a family meeting at least one week before school. This is the perfect time to implement a new school plan for the new year. For example, new homework rules, activities (not too many, I hope), as well as when and what to eat before school and afterwards. This is especially true if your child goes to an after-school program where snacks are provided.

Does your child need a little extra confidence going into the new school year? Fitness for Health can help! At Fitness for Health, we design our kids’ health and fitness for kids programs to help children develop the skills—and the self-confidence—they need for real life. We do it through our unique Success Builds Success approach, which encourages children learn to take new risks through small, achievable—and wildly fun—challenges.

Our programs are designed to help children shape the skills that other fitness for kids programs tend to ignore, including mental processing, motor planning, visual information processing and proprioception (the ability to innately sense your body’s position, movement and spatial orientation) in addition to offering athletic training for kids.

Have a happy and safe new school year! And, happy second day of school to families attending Washington, DC Public Schools!

Soy and Bone Strength for Women

Do you have a woman in your life who has decreased bone strength?

Osteoporosis, decreased physical activity and weight gain are serious health concerns for postmenopausal women.  Researchers from the University of Missouri now have discovered through a new animal study that soy protein found in food might counter the negative effects of menopause on bone and metabolic health. Additionally, the researchers believe that soy protein might also have positive impacts on bone strength for women who have not yet reached menopause.

Pamela Hinton, professor of nutrition and exercise physiology, and Victoria Vieira-Potter, co-author and associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology, studied “the effects of soy versus corn-based diets on rats selectively bred to have low fitness levels. Rats were again divided between those with and without ovaries to mimic effects of menopause.  Prior research has found that these rats are good models for menopausal women. They compared the impact of the soy diet on bone strength and metabolic function to rats fed a corn-based, soy-free diet.”

“Bottom line, this study showed that women might improve bone strength by adding some soy-based whole foods to their diet,” Hinton said. “Our findings suggest that women don’t even need to eat as much soy as is found in typical Asian diets, but adding some tofu or other soy, for example foods found in vegetarian diets, could help strengthen bones.”

Do you want to improve your bone strength, or know someone who could use assistance?

Fitness for Health provides a revolutionary, 12-week Bone and Joint Health Program for adults and seniors that capitalizes on weight-bearing, fitness activities.  This groundbreaking program helps to improve posture and increase bone density, strength and balance while counteracting the effects of osteoporosis, osteopenia and aging.

The Bone and Joint Health Program elicits results faster and more effectively than traditional exercise (fitness for seniors) or pharmaceuticals through two state-of-the-art fitness technologies:

  • bioDensity™ – Weight-bearing exercises are the key to stimulating bone growth, and the greater the weight applied, the better the results. The osteogenic loading that patients receive is multiples of bodyweight, and beyond what is typically seen in exercise.  Research has shown, bone density gains that averaged 7% in the hip and 7.7% in the spine over one year using bioDensity (Jaquish, 2013). These results are multiples of what the current interventions can do for bone density.
  • Power Plate™ – Power Plate is a whole body vibration platform that allows for reflexive engagement of the neuromuscular system at rapid and repeatable oscillation. This intervention has been clinically shown to increase balance and stability in both healthy and aging-frail populations.

When used once a week, research has shown the bioDensity system alone has significantly increased bone mass density, stability and functional movement with multiple ages, health conditions and for both genders.

To register for a bioDensity orientation, please email us at Info@FitnessForHealth.org.