February is Heart Disease Awareness Month

February is Heart Disease Awareness Month.  Celebrate your heart!

Follow these heart-healthy tips to keep your ticker ticking:

  • Don’t smoke or use tobacco. This nasty habit is one of the most controllable risk factors for heart disease. You start to improve your heart health within minutes of quitting. After one year, your heart disease risk is cut in half and, after 10 years of not smoking, your heart disease risk is the same as for someone who has never smoked.
  • Exercise for 30 minutes on most days of the week. Whether you hit the elliptical, jog around your neighborhood or participate in a fitness for seniors class, make your athletic training routine fun!  Play tag with your kids or take your dog on a long walk.  By involving the whole family in your workout, you can spend extra time bonding and creating lifelong memories while focusing on weight management and improving bone and joint health.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet. Eat foods that are low in fat, cholesterol and salt. Your diet should be high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products which can help protect your heart.  Beans, other low-fat sources of protein and certain types of fish also can reduce your risk of heart disease.
  • Focus on weight management. You don’t have to be super-thin or stick to a rigid athletic training routine to reap the benefits of a smaller waistline, but according to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, carrying too much weight around the middle raises blood pressure, affects blood lipids and does damage to the heart. Abdominal exercises are good, but remember that it’s calories in (what you eat) and calories out (how you exercise) that will make a difference.
  • Get regular health screenings. Keeping your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides in check are important for good heart health. Learn your optimal levels and don’t skip your annual physical exam.

Even small, steady changes in your life can help create a stronger, more efficient heart.  More than half of heart disease is preventable, and studies have shown that 90% of heart attacks can be prevented by eating a lot of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish and legumes; exercising; weight management; and not smoking. And, you’re never too old – or too young – to start thinking about a stronger heart!

Do you need help creating an exercise program that will benefit your heart – no matter if you are interested in athletic training or fitness for seniors?  Learn about our convenient training sessions that can be scheduled before work, during lunch or in the evenings.  We even offer child and teen-specific weight management programs targeting childhood obesity.

Celebrate Your Heart This Valentine’s Day

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

Are you ready to exercise?

I have heart-healthy tips for you!

Thursday is Valentine’s Day.  Does the love of your life make your heart beat a little faster and your body temperature rise? So does exercise and athletic training!

By exercising for as little as 30 minutes a day, you can reduce your risk of heart disease by 30% – 40% and your risk of having a stroke by 25%.  Medical research even shows that for every minute of walking, you may increase your life expectancy by seven minutes!

In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are some heart-healthy exercise tips from the American Heart Association’s website:

Make the time!

  • Start slowly. Gradually build up to at least 30 minutes of activity on most or all days of the week (or whatever your doctor recommends).
  • Exercise at the same time of day so it becomes a regular part of your lifestyle. For example, you might walk every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from noon to 12:30 p.m.
  • Find a convenient time and place to do activities or fitness for seniors. Try to make it a habit, but be flexible. If you miss an exercise opportunity, work activity into your day another way.

Keep reasonable expectations of yourself.

  • If you’ve been sedentary for a long time, are overweight or need to maintain weight management, have a high risk of coronary heart disease or some other chronic health problem, see your doctor for a medical evaluation before beginning a physical activity program.
  • Look for chances to be more active during the day. Walk the mall before shopping, take the stairs instead of the escalator or take 10–15 minute breaks while watching TV or sitting for walking or some other activity.

Make it fun!

  • Choose activities that are fun, not exhausting. Add variety. Develop a repertoire of several activities that you can enjoy. That way, fitness will never seem boring or routine.
  • Ask family and friends to join you. You’ll be more likely to stick with it if you have company. Join an exercise group or fitness facility. There are even programs specifically for tween and teens to have fun and make new friends while combating childhood obesity and maintaining weight management.
  • Use variety to keep your interest up. Walk one day, swim the next, then go for a bike ride on the weekend.
  • Use music to keep you entertained.

Track and celebrate your success!

  • Note your activities on a calendar or in a logbook. Write down the distance or length of time of your activity and how you feel after each session.
  • Keep a record of your activities. Reward yourself at special milestones. Nothing motivates like success!
  • Visit the American Heart Association’s website – StartWalkingNow.org – to find all the resources you need to get moving and stay motivated.

Valentine’s Day comes just once a year, but your heart needs daily attention.  Celebrate on Thursday by beginning a heart-healthy exercise regimen – not only for your health, but also for the sake of your loved ones.

Learn how Fitness for Health can help you create a heart-healthy and fun, exercise program to reach your personal goals. Whether you prefer EDGE Training – our athletic training system, exergaming – a weight management program for tweens and teens, or fitness for seniors, we can create a customized exercise program to fit your unique needs.

Homeschooling? Your Kids May Not Be Getting Enough Exercise

Parents who homeschool their children may think putting them into organized sports and physical activities keeps them fit, but a study by Rice University researchers in Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology states that kids may need more physical activity.

Faculty at the Rice Department of Kinesiology studied data gathered from 100 home-schooled children age 10-17 to back up their assumption that such activities are sufficient to keep children physically fit. The data, however, proved them wrong.

Laura Kabiri, a sports medicine lecturer at Rice, says the problem lies in how much activity is part of organized regimens. According to the World Health Organization, children should get about an hour of primarily aerobic activity a day, but other studies have noted children involved in non-elite sports actually get only 20 to 30 minutes of the moderate to vigorous exercise they require during practice.

“We assumed — and I think parents largely do as well — that children enrolled in an organized sport or physical activity are getting the activity they need to maintain good body composition, cardiorespiratory fitness and muscular development,” Kabiri states. “We found that is not the case. Just checking the box and enrolling them in an activity doesn’t necessarily mean they’re meeting the requirements they need to stay healthy.”

Kabiri explains the researchers suspect the same is true for public school students in general physical education classes, where much of the time is spent getting the class organized. “When you only have 50 minutes, it’s very easy for half that time or more to go to getting them in, out and on-task,” she says.

The authors concluded parents would be wise to give their children more time for unstructured physical activity every day.

“Parents know if they attend activities and don’t see their kids breathing and sweating hard, then they’re not getting enough exercise,” Kabiri says. “So there should be more opportunities for unstructured activity. Get your kids outside and let them run around and play with the neighborhood kids and ride their bikes.”

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 – for kids and parents alike.  Would you rather run on a treadmill or play a pick-up game of basketball with your buddies or your family at the park? Would you prefer to do chin-ups or go sledding on the steepest hill in the neighborhood?

Make fitness fun! Play with your kids as a family.  Your 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 family!

Do you have a child ages 8-12 who is homeschooled? Fitness for Health offers an ongoing, 8-week fitness class specifically for homeschoolers! Our 50-minute, once a week class will help students achieve their physical education requirements while further developing their gross motor skills, social interactions, body awareness and self-confidence. Our non-competitive environment and state-of-the-art facility is the perfect place for your weekly physical education class!

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.  Attend our free, Open House for Prospective Families on Sunday, March 3, from 5pm – 6pm to learn about our athletic training, therapeutic exercise, occupational therapy and physical therapy offerings. Visit www.FitnessForHealth.org to learn about our programs or call us at 301-231-7138.

Is Stress at Work Causing Women’s Weight Gain?

Are you a female? Are you stressed at work? Your workplace stress could be causing your weight gain.

According to a new study published in the journal, International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, heavy pressures at work seem to predispose women to weight gain, irrespective of whether they have received an academic education. This is shown in a study of more than 3,800 people in Sweden.

“We were able to see that high job demands played a part in women’s weight gain, while for men there was no association between high demands and weight gain,” said Sofia Klingberg, a researcher in community medicine and public health at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, and the study’s lead author.

Klingberg continued, “When it came to the level of demands at work, only the women were affected. We haven’t investigated the underlying causes, but it may conceivably be about a combination of job demands and the greater responsibility for the home that women often assume. This may make it difficult to find time to exercise and live a healthy life.”

How can you decrease your stress levels? Make time to exercise.

As the founder and owner of Fitness for Health, a therapeutic exercise facility assisting children through senior citizens to reach their full potential by using innovative exergaming technology to make fitness fun, I’ve learned that virtually any form of exercise, from aerobics to yoga, can act as a stress reliever.  If you’re not an athlete or even if you’re out of shape, you can still make a little exercise go a long way toward stress management.

Exercise increases your overall health and your sense of well-being, which puts more pep in your step every day. But exercise also has some direct stress-busting benefits.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Physical activity helps bump up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Although this function is often referred to as a runner’s high, a rousing game of tennis or a nature hike also can contribute to this same feeling.”  After a fast-paced game of basketball or several laps around your favorite mall, you’ll often find that you’ve forgotten the day’s irritations and concentrated only on your body’s movements.

As you begin to regularly shed your daily, workplace tensions through movement and physical activity, you may find that this focus on a single task, and the resulting energy and optimism, can help you remain calm and clear in everything you do – at work and at home.

Additionally, regular exercise can increase self-confidence, it can relax you, and it can lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. Exercise can also improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression and anxiety. All of these exercise benefits can ease your stress levels and give you a sense of command over your body and your life.

So, do yourself – and those people around you – a favor by exercising to improve your health and your mood.

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.

Belly Fat Can Lead to Brain Shrinkage

Carrying extra body fat, especially around the middle, may be linked to brain shrinkage, according to a study published in the Jan. 9, 2019, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. For the study, researchers determined obesity by measuring body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratio in study participants and found those with higher ratios of both measures had the lowest brain volume.

“Existing research has linked brain shrinkage to memory decline and a higher risk of dementia, but research on whether extra body fat is protective or detrimental to brain size has been inconclusive,” said study author Mark Hamer, PhD, of Loughborough University in Leicestershire, England. “Our research looked at a large group of people and found obesity, specifically around the middle, may be linked with brain shrinkage.”

After adjusting for other factors that may affect brain volume, such as age, physical activity, smoking and high blood pressure, researchers found that while a high BMI alone was linked to slightly lower brain volumes, those with high BMI and waist-to-hip ratios had lower gray matter brain volumes than participants who did not have a high waist-to-hip ratio.

“While our study found obesity, especially around the middle, was associated with lower gray matter brain volumes, it’s unclear if abnormalities in brain structure lead to obesity or if obesity leads to these changes in the brain,” said Hamer. “We also found links between obesity and shrinkage in specific regions of the brain. This will need further research but it may be possible that someday regularly measuring BMI and waist-to-hip ratio may help determine brain health.”

What can be done to keep maintain weight management while warding off “belly fat”?

  • Celebrate winter and get moving! Schedule one afternoon a week for the family to rake and then play in the snow.  Studies show that you can burn about 200 calories an hour by sledding.  Not only will you get a great workout, your kids will have a blast too while combating childhood obesity.
  • Stay hydrated – even as it gets colder. If your belly feels full, you won’t be as hungry and won’t overeat.
  • Exercise before bed. Do you give into cravings while watching TV at night?  Try exercising instead. According to an April 2013 study in the journal, Obesity, our circadian system makes us hungriest a few hours before bedtime. But you may feel fuller after working out. A different study in the journal, Metabolism, found that perceived fullness was higher among participants after 12 weeks of aerobic training than before they were exercising. So a brisk walk after dinner each night may make you less likely to snack before bed.

Are you in need of fitness assistance?  Fitness for Health can help you create a healthy, active lifestyle while having fun and maintaining weight management.  We offer customized exercise programs designed to fit your and your children’s exact needs while helping you reach your unique health goals. From first-time gym-goers to NFL and boxing professional athletes looking for athletic training, Fitness for Health has fitness programs to help people of all ages and abilities reach their fullest potential.

Fight Seasonal Affective Disorder by Exercising

Are you S.A.D? Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — S.A.D. begins and ends at about the same times every year. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you’re like most people with S.A.D., your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.  Of course, this condition can also be compounded by the Holidays when many people become less happy and more stressed about fulfilling their full potential in the new year.

What can you do to fight Seasonal Affective Disorder? Exercise and begin an athletic training program.

The Week reports that Swedish researchers genetically engineered mice to have high levels of protein that built up in their muscles when they exercised.  Scientists then subjected these mice and a control group to sustained, low-level stress.  After five weeks, the” normal” mice showed signs of depression.  The engineered group did not.  The Swedish researchers believe that the protein, PGC-1 [alpha] 1, helps turn a “metabolite linked to depression” into an acid that is easily passed out of the body. Co-author Jorge Ruas says, “The study proves that exercise should be prescribed for the treatment and prevention of depression.”

Improved self-esteem is a key psychological benefit of regular physical activity and maintaining weight management. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain.  Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. For example, the feeling that follows a run or workout is often described as “euphoric.” That feeling, known as a “runner’s high,” can be accompanied by a positive and energizing outlook on life.

Regular, athletic training has been proven to:

  • Reduce stress.
  • Ward off anxiety and feelings of depression.
  • Boost self-esteem.
  • Improve sleep.

Exercise also has these added health benefits:

  • It strengthens your heart.
  • It increases energy levels.
  • It lowers blood pressure.
  • It improves muscle tone and strength.
  • It strengthens bone and joint health.
  • It helps reduce body fat.
  • It makes you look fit and healthy.

Don’t let S.A.D. get you down in 2019! Create an exercise regimen that not only sustains weight management and improves your athletic training, but also helps to boost your mood by increasing your endorphins.

Do you need assistance creating an exercise program?  Fitness for Health can help! We can customize a fitness workout to fit your exact needs. Whether you are interested in weight management, improving bone and joint health, fitness for seniors, exercise for children or adults with special needs, or kids’ health programs, our fitness trainers can individualize a workout for you.  Visit www.FitnessForHealth.org to learn about our occupational therapy and physical therapy programs.

Exercise Shown to Increase Bone Remodeling

Exercise has been touted to build bone mass, but exactly how it actually accomplishes this is a matter of debate. Now, researchers show that an exercise-induced hormone activates cells that are critical for bone remodeling in mice.

A study appearing in the journal Cell on December 13, 2018, identifies a receptor for irisin, an exercise hormone, and shows that irisin impacts sclerostin in mice, a major cellular regulator of bone structure in humans. The work may inform future treatments for osteoporosis, which causes more than 8.9 million fractures worldwide annually.

“These results are potential game changers in the fields of metabolism, muscle-bone biology, and exercise,” says co-author Bruce Spiegelman, a cancer biologist at Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. “We show that irisin works directly on osteocytes, the most abundant cell type in bone.”

The article states, “Irisin, secreted by skeletal muscle in response to endurance exercise in mice and humans, has been linked to bone strengthening, calorie burning, and improved cognition. But its very existence was once controversial, and the mechanism underlying its effect on bone proved elusive.”

I concur with Dr. Spiegelman.  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 weight-bearing exercise to improve bone and joint health in the middle age population and the importance of fitness for seniors. In fact, we are proud to have created a bone and joint health program for men and women as they age.

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.

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.

Learn more about how we can help you create a customized fitness for seniors program that counteracts the signs of aging while helping to maintain weight management and increase bone and joint health.

Made Your New Year’s Resolution Yet?

Are you thinking about reinventing yourself in 2019? Or, using the new year as a long overdue excuse to get rid of bad nutritional habits or improve your athletic training to maintain weight management? You’re not alone. 

According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, in 2017, 41% of people made New Year’s resolutions.  Can you guess which resolution was most popular? If you guessed losing weight or weight management, you are correct!  (“Self-improvement” came in #2 and “work out more often” came in #7.)

Don’t set yourself up for failure in 2019 by vowing to make huge changes that will be hard to keep. Instead, follow a few suggestions for successfully making a new year’s resolution you can stick to – for the long haul.

  • Focus on one aspect.  If you want to change your life or your lifestyle, don’t try to change everything at once. It won’t work. Instead pick one area of your life to change to begin. Make it something concrete so you know exactly what change you’re planning to make. If you’re successful with the first change, you can go ahead and make another change after a month or so. By making small changes one after the other, you still have the chance to be a whole new you at the end of 2019 and it’s a much more realistic way of doing it.
  • Pick a start date.  You don’t have to make these changes on New Year’s Day.  Pick a day when you know you’ll be well-rested, enthusiastic and surrounded by positive people who can help you stay on track.
  • Put your heart into it.  Go for it 100% beginning on your chosen start day.  Make a commitment and write it down on a card. You just need one short phrase you can carry in your wallet, keep in your gym bag or display by your bed and/or on your bathroom mirror. For example, your mantra could be “I will exercise to improve my bone and joint health” or “I will go to the gym for athletic training twice a week.”  Choose a place that you view the card often in order to give yourself positive reinforcement.
  • Remember that nobody is perfect.  Don’t become discouraged if you don’t immediately achieve your New Year’s resolutions or if you have a setback in your quest to maintain weight management. Losing weight is a journey; not a sprint. Weight loss won’t be permanently achieved overnight. (Wouldn’t it be great if you could eat a hot fudge sundae before bed and, by morning, lose 5 pounds?) The most important aspect of a resolution is that you keep trying.

Whatever your plans and goals are for 2019, I wish you luck!  But, remember, it’s your life and you make your own luck.  Decide what you want to accomplish in 2019, plan how to get it and go for it. I’ll definitely be cheering you on!

Fitness for Health creates unique exercise programs based on a person’s individual fitness goals.  Want to lose weight or maintain weight management for adults or kids in 2019?  Interested in toning your body?  Aspiring to improve your athletic edge?  No problem!  Whether you are a young child or a senior citizen, Fitness for Health can you help you and your loved ones reach your full potential – and your New Year’s resolutions – this year. Visit www.FitnessForHealth.org to learn more.

Family

Now that the Holidays are upon us, everywhere you go, you see happy families spending time together.  So, in honor of Hanukkah, Kwanza and Christmas and their celebration of family togetherness, the focus of my blog today is the importance of family.

Family is the most important aspect of society.  Family is not only the basic societal building block, it also provides invaluable life skills and forms the people we will become as adults.  It teaches us child-raising, patience, basic communication skills and how to love – while being the all-around fun and friendship unit.

In our families, we love, serve, teach and learn from each other. We share our joys and our sorrows. Family ties may bring us difficult challenges, but family also gives us strength and some of our greatest happiness.

While we cannot choose the conditions of our birth, we can choose each day to make our families stronger and happier by spending quality time together having fun and playing.

Families need to work – and play – together to enhance and build stronger relationships.  With an integrated, team-building approach, parents, grandparents and children can have fun playing games that also increase self-esteem – and help families bond.

So, take this holiday and school break as an opportunity to play as a family.  Set aside one night to play Scrabble, go ice skating or take a walk around the neighborhood to view the holiday lights.  If you feel more adventurous, create your own family games – while also creating new family traditions and memories.  Your only limit is your imagination.

I wish you and your family a happy holiday!

For more ideas about family games and “family playtime,” read my previous blogs.  For additional information about Fitness for Health’s programs for children and families, visit www.FitnessForHealth.org.

Does Eating Less Over the Holidays Mean Weight Loss? No

We’re nearing the end of the most celebrated food holidays of the year – Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s Eve – which means there’s a high probability that you’ve overeaten and feel guilty.

Keeping a svelte physique should be easy, right? Eat less fatty foods. Eat more veggies. Lose weight and continue weight management.

As we all know, losing weight and keeping it off isn’t easy.

“On a very simple level, your weight depends on the number of calories you consume, how many of those calories you store, and how many you burn up,” explains a publication from Harvard Medical School. “But each of these factors is influenced by a combination of genes and environment.”

In other words, the most basic equation to understand weight gain is that people gain weight when they consume more calories than they burn — those extra calories get stored as fat. But scientists have found many connections between someone’s risk of weight gain and a wide variety of other factors, including his or her genetic makeup, diet in infancy and childhood, sleep habits, stress levels and gut bacteria. The same factors that also affect adult and childhood obesity.

In the past decade, there has been an onslaught of studies suggesting that the calories-in/calories-out theory of weight gain is an oversimplification.

Although eating more vegetables and fruit combined with lessening your intake of mayonnaise and heavy, oily foods is a great start to eating a healthier diet, it isn’t enough for a majority of people.

  • Before you hit the New Year’s Eve buffet, fill up on nuts. This will help curb your appetite and you’ll be less tempted by the bowls of potato chips or fried hors d’oeuvres.
  • Also, opt for grilled or baked salmon instead of prime rib as your main course.
  • Don’t deny yourself dessert! Christmas and Hanukkah come just once a year. Sample the leftover Holiday cookies, but try not to eat a whole dozen of gingerbread men.

Were you busy this Holiday season shopping, wrapping and cooking? Absolutely.  Does this give you a reprieve from working out? No. If you want to maintain your energy level, receive a good night’s rest and stave off coughs and colds, you need to make time for fitness – for your health and 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!