Physical Fun Can Benefit Your Overweight Child’s Mindframe

“A program with clear rules, routines and activities, attentive adults and a chance to interact with peers in a fun environment appears to work as well as exercise at improving the quality of life, mood and self-worth of a child who is overweight or obese,” researchers report.

While regular exercise is clearly beneficial to children – and adults – the psychosocial health of children may benefit as much from other kinds of adult-led after school programs, Medical College of Georgia researchers report in the journal Translational Behavioral Medicine.

They looked at 175 predominantly African-American children ages 8-11 who were overweight or obese and were previously inactive. Children participated in either a fun-driven aerobic exercise program or a sedentary after-school program where they played board games and did artistic activities.

They found that, while the exercise program had the additional benefits of reducing body fat, improving fitness, and even improved brain health, there was no mood advantage from the exercise program. The report states, “Fatness and fitness did not change as much in the sedentary group.”

In fact, in the case of the boys, those in the sedentary group reported depressive symptoms actually decreased more over time than their peers in the exercise group.

The study found that children in the 8-11 age range may actually prefer just talking or socializing with their friends as a fun activity, rather than some form of exercise, while younger children may think it’s more fun to run around.

The fact that both programs provided psychosocial benefit to the children led the investigators to conclude that some benefits of exercise found in previous studies resulted from the regular opportunity to be with attentive adults who provide behavioral structure. It also resulted from the children enjoying interacting with each other, sharing snacks and other activities, while spending less time watching television.

There is plenty of evidence that obesity and being overweight can impact overall quality of life and that children with these conditions can have increased problems with anxiety, bullying, fatigue, anger and general behavior problems, and that generally higher BMI/body max index (a ratio of weight to height) is associated with a lower self-worth in children.

“Exercise is very well demonstrated to improve mood. However, I think you have to consider exercise in the context that it occurs, so the social context counts too,” says Dr. Catherine Davis, clinical health psychologist at MCG’s Georgia Prevention Institute and the study’s corresponding author.

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.

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.

Are Depression and Obesity Linked?

Depression has long been linked to obesity and weight gain.

In a review paper published in Translational Psychiatry, Professor Julio Licinio of the Department of Psychiatry at Flinders University in Australia and his colleagues point to animal studies carried out by his team in recent years that suggest there is a link between obesity, high fat diets and prior exposure to fluoxetine (the ingredient of Prozac) and imipramine.

Mounting evidence suggests the link between popular antidepressants and obesity should be investigated more closely, Australian researchers say.

Professor Licinio and his colleagues argue antidepressants could have a delayed effect on the weight management of people who eat high fat diets. “This is very worrisome because the number of people who have been exposed to antidepressants in the general population is immense,” Professor Licinio said.

If you’ve read my blogs over the last couple of years, you know that I’m a big proponent of using exercise to combat depression.  Scientific research also backs me up.

A study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, relied on a 1958 birth cohort from England, Scotland and Wales to examine the associations between physical activity and symptoms of depression over a span of 50 years for more than 10,000 people.

The study reaffirmed what prior research had suggested: “Routine physical activity appeared to reduce the likelihood of depressive symptoms and depression. Their relatively novel contribution was to note the reciprocal association: Depressive symptoms seemed to reduce the likelihood of current or future physical activity as well.”

Want to preserve your mind’s cognitive abilities? Exercise.

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 and help to ward off cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease and help improve memory.

Routine physical activity can help prevent depression and stabilize mood, which in turn contributes to the motivation needed to keep exercising. So, exercising can improve your mental and physical health alike.

So, what are you waiting for?

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

Laughter is the Best Medicine

Knock-knock.  Who’s there?  Boo.  Boo who? The healing power of laughter is nothing to cry about!

We were born with the gift of laughter.  Laughter is a natural medicine. It lifts our spirits and makes us feel happy. Laughter is a contagious emotion. It can bring people together. It can help us feel more alive and empowered.

Medical studies have found that laughter may also provide physical benefits, such as helping to:

  • Boost the immune system and circulatory system
  • Enhance oxygen intake
  • Stimulate the heart and lungs
  • Relax muscles throughout the body
  • Trigger the release of endorphins (the body’s natural painkillers)
  • Improve sleep
  • Ease digestion/soothes stomach aches
  • Relieve pain
  • Balance blood pressure
  • Improve mental functions (i.e., alertness, memory, creativity)

According to HelpGuide.org, laughter is a strong medicine for the mind, body and soul:

Physical Health Benefits:

  • Boosts immunity
  • Lowers stress hormones
  • Decreases pain
  • Relaxes your muscles
  • Prevents heart disease

Mental Health Benefits:

  • Adds joy and zest to life
  • Eases anxiety and fear
  • Relieves stress
  • Improves mood
  • Enhances resilience

Social Benefits:

  • Strengthens relationships
  • Attracts others to us
  • Enhances teamwork
  • Helps defuse conflict
  • Promotes group bonding

So, as the school year approaches and stress levels rise, just remember to take a moment and giggle.  As laughter, humor and play become an integrated part of your life, your creativity will flourish and new discoveries for playing with friends, coworkers, acquaintances and loved ones will occur to you daily. Humor takes you to a higher place where you can view the world from a more relaxed, positive, creative, joyful, and balanced perspective.  And, best of all, it’s FREE.

For more information concerning Fitness for Health and our programs, visit www.FitnessForHealth.org.

Summer Injuries in Youth Sports

Is your child involved in summer sports?

According to Medical News Today’s “Young Athletes: Injuries and Prevention,” James R. Andrews, a former president of the American Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM), states, “The United States has experienced a tremendous rise in the number of young people taking up sport. Estimates show 3.5 million children aged 14 and under receive medical treatment for sport-related injuries, while high-school athletes account for another 2 million a year.”

“This makes sports the leading cause of adolescent injury. Along with time away from school and work, these injuries can have far-reaching effects,” said Andrews.

I think it’s important for kids to excel in sports and love the simple pursuit of play – while protecting kids health. One of the most important ways to promote this is to reduce the number of kids being sidelined from sports-related injuries. That’s why parents, coaches and young athletes should understand common sports injuries and how to prevent them.

In addition to founding Fitness for Health, a state-of-the-art, therapeutic, fitness facility in the Washington, DC, region, I have been a Certified Athletic Trainer for almost 30 years. Here are my suggestions for preparing kids for athletic training and the demands of playing summer sports:

  • Before playing organized sports, make sure your child receives a pre-participation physical exam, or PPE, performed by a doctor or a nurse practitioner or qualified clinician under the supervision of a physician. Whomever performs the exam, the same practices should be followed including the need for a medical history.
  • Ensure kids warm-up and cool down. Stretching before and after practices and games can release muscle tension and help prevent sports-related injuries, such as muscle tears or sprains, and ensure bone and joint health.
  • Encourage your athletes to drinks fluids (water is the best option) 30 minutes before the activity begins and every 15-20 minutes during activity in order to stay hydrated. Even if the child isn’t thirsty, insist he/she drink water.
  • Know the signs of dehydration. Even mild dehydration can affect your child’s athletic performance and make him/her lethargic and irritable. Left untreated, dehydration increases the risk of other heat-related illnesses, including heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Remind your child that he or she should report signs and symptoms to the coach right away. Don’t let embarrassment keep your child on the field. If dehydration is detected early, fluids and rest might be all that’s needed. If your child seems confused or loses consciousness, seek emergency care.

Would your child like to have an athletic edge on the court or field this summer?  Fitness for Health offers a unique program that is unlike any other athletic training and performance development program anywhere, EDGE Training!

Most athletes only train to improve their speed, strength, agility and conditioning.  That just isn’t enough.  Our one-on-one and group children’s athletic performance development program, EDGE Training, helps athletes at all levels develop the skills that give them an edge on—and off—the field, including gross and fine motor skills, mental processing and planning and visual motor skills.

React faster, improve hand-eye coordination, think faster and up your game using state-of-the-art exergaming equipment.  Learn more about Fitness for Health’s EDGE Training today!

Overtraining Hinders Athletic Performance

Now that summer is in full swing, many children – and adults – are making the most of the beautiful weather and are participating in numerous sports teams.  All that sports conditioning and athletic training are great for your energy levels and weight management, but it could actually hinder your athletic performance.

A University of Guelph study is the first to show that overload training may alter firing in the body’s sympathetic nerve fibers, which could hinder performance.

“The theory behind overload training is that you train to the point of complete exhaustion, so that when you rest and recover, you will be able to perform at a higher level than before,” said Alexandra Coates, a PhD student in human health and nutritional science and lead author of the study. “But that may not be entirely correct.”

The study revealed that “muscle sympathetic nerve activity, which constricts the muscle’s blood vessels and indicates stress in the body, increased in over-trained athletes.” In layman’s terms, this means that an athlete’s nervous system is temporarily altered by overtraining.  So, athletes who follow a consistent fitness and training schedule may have better endurance and long-term performance.

As a Certified Athletic Trainer and the founder of Fitness for Health, a therapeutic, exercise facility working with children through senior citizens – and professional athletes such as Jerome Couplin III, formerly of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams – in the Washington, DC, area, I am routinely asked, “How can I ensure that my child or I am safe while athletic training?”

I think it’s important for kids – and adults – to excel in sports and love the simple pursuit of play while protecting your health.   Here are my suggestions for preparing for athletic training and the demands of playing summer sports:

  • Before playing organized sports, make sure you or your child receives a pre-participation physical exam, or PPE, performed by a doctor or a nurse practitioner or qualified clinician under the supervision of a physician. Whomever performs the exam, the same practices should be followed including the need for a medical history.
  • Ensure you’re warming-up and cooling down.  Stretching before and after practices and games can release muscle tension and help prevent sports-related injuries, such as muscle tears or sprains, and ensure bone and joint health.
  • Encourage your athletes to drinks fluids (water is the best option) 30 minutes before the activity begins and every 15-20 minutes during activity in order to stay hydrated.  Even if the child isn’t thirsty, insist he/she drink water.
  • Know the signs of dehydration.  Even mild dehydration can affect your child’s athletic performance and make him/her lethargic and irritable. Left untreated, dehydration increases the risk of other heat-related illnesses, including heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heatstroke.
  • Don’t over-train.  According to BodyBuilder.com, “Along with persistent fatigue, you may be also experiencing these symptoms of overtraining:”
    • Persistent muscle soreness
    • Elevated resting heart rate
    • Increased susceptibility to infections
    • Increased incidence of injuries
    • Irritability
    • Depression
    • Loss of motivation
    • Insomnia
    • Decreased appetite
    • Weight loss
  • If you – or your child – do over-train, rest.  To see improvement in one’s strength and fitness you must rest. The rest period following hard training is a magical process which takes at least 36 hours to complete. By skimping on rest, complete regeneration cannot occur.  If the amount of training continues to exceed the rest period, however, the individual’s performance will plateau and decline.

About Fitness for Health:

Do you or your child want an athletic edge for fall sports? Want to train like a professional athlete?

Try EDGE Training – Athletic Performance Development to improve hand-eye coordination, visual reaction time, peripheral awareness, agility, balance, proprioception and athletic conditioning utilizing the latest in exergaming technology.  All are areas that will make the difference – and give you the EDGE during game time.

Call 301-231-7138 to register for a FREE tour or attend our Open House on Sunday, August 4, from 5pm – 6pm.

Walk Your Way to Weight Loss

Enjoy the beautiful summer weather by walking your way to weight loss.

Walking is the simplest, cheapest and most convenient way to exercise, but a study suggests there’s actually a magic number of steps to aim for if you’re truly looking to shed pounds while walking.

As written in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, data included each participant’s age, BMI, heart rate, and breathing rate so they could learn of any correlation between walking and overall health.

Is there a “magic number of steps”?  According to the study’s co-author, Dr. Catrine Tudor-Locke, the answer is yes.  100 steps per minute (about 2.7 miles per hour) is the magic formula for it to be considered moderate exercise, where your heart rate increases by 50 to 70 percent. When you break it down, it’s just under 2 steps per second, which definitely sounds doable for a healthy individual. She states, “This rate applies to anyone under the age of 60.  Currently, federal guidelines say that Americans should exercise at least for 30 minutes each day, so you’ll need to ensure that you get those 3,000 steps in within that time period.”

So, turn up the intensity of a walk and burn more calories quicker with these simple habits:

  • Walk faster. People often wonder how you might burn more calories per mile at slow speeds. This is because you are basically stopping and starting with each step and your momentum isn’t helping to carry you along. Your body walks more efficiently at moderate speeds. Meanwhile, at very high walking speeds you are using more muscle groups with arm motion and with a racewalking stride. Brisk walking, at a pace that makes it tough to talk, which means at least two miles in 30 minutes, is a good way to lose weight and maintain weight management while athletic training. Your goal should be to work out at about 75 percent of your maximum heart rate. (To calculate your target heartbeats per minute, subtract your age from 220, and then multiply that number by 0.705.)
  • Add incline. Walk up a hill or stairs to add cardiovascular conditioning and athletic training to your workout.  This not only increases your calorie expenditure but also tones the muscles in your buttocks and thighs because it demands more from your legs.
  • Walk with a buddy. Activities – especially athletic training – is always more fun with a friend. Research confirms that a support system helps maintain long-term, weight management.
  • Find a fun walking partner. According to 30 Tips When You’re Walking for Weight Loss by Eat This Not That!, “It’s no joke: genuine laughter may cause a 10–20 percent increase in basal energy expenditure and resting heart-rate, according to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity. That means a 10-15 minute giggle fest could burn up 40 to 170 calories.”
  • Stay hydrated. According to a study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, staying hydrated helped healthy people burn more calories. The research states, “Drinking 500 ml of water increased metabolic rate by 30%.” So, remember to drink water while walking and burn calories quicker.

Regular exercise – especially walking – is beneficial for people of all ages.  Exercise helps to improve muscle and joint flexibility and keeps your heart healthy while improving bone and joint health.  It also can improve sleep and helps to maintain weight management.

Fitness for Health creates unique exercise programs based on a person’s individual fitness goals.  Want to lose weight or maintain 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.

Our Diets are Improving – But We Can Do Better

Are you planning on eating your fill of hot dogs, chips and potato salad this Fourth of July? You’re not alone. Everyone indulges sometimes – and we should – in order to ensure we’re not cheating ourselves out of the simple joys of life. But, we also need to eat healthier in the long-term to prolong our lives and remain healthy into older age.

Americans are eating healthier! In fact, a study finds that improved diets have prevented 1.1 million premature deaths over a 14-year period. Unfortunately, overall, our diets could be improved though.

While the consumption of healthy foods such as fruits and whole grains increased, the consumption of vegetables and healthy omega-3 fats did not, according to the study, published in the journal, Health Affairs. At the same time, the intake of sodium increased over time.

The two most significant changes in the U.S. diet that the researchers observed during the study period were a decrease in the consumption of trans fat (by nearly 72 percent) and a decrease in the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and juice (by about 36 percent). (To learn how your family’s weight management may be sabotaged by sodas, read our previous blog, Is Your Family Pouring on the Pounds?)

“Our findings provide further justification for promoting healthful diets as a national priority for chronic disease prevention, as well as for legislative and regulatory actions to improve the food supply more broadly,” study author Dong Wang, a doctoral candidate in the nutrition and epidemiology departments at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a statement.

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 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!

Women’s World Cup Workout

Are you jealous of the speed, agility, core stabilization and leg power of your favorite World Cup athletes? In honor of the Women’s World Cup, here are a few tips to help you begin athletic training and become ready for the soccer field:

Speed:

  • Include sprints into your workout twice a week.  Sprints should last 10 minutes.  According to Human Kinetics, “Five minutes of the speed workout should be devoted to doing 10 all-out quality sprints at distances ranging from 10 to 50 yards (9-46 meters). Athletes should have about 30 seconds of rest between sprints so that they are breathing easily before their next sprint.”
  • To improve your speed, you must stretch correctly so flexibility training is critical.

Agility:

  • Jumping rope is great. Try some of these variations: typical two-foot jump, stride jumps (swap forward foot on each jump), crossover jumps or single-leg jumps.
  • Use a speed ladder.  A speed ladder is a vinyl ladder you roll out onto a flat surface. Run through the ladder (always as fast as possible) with one foot in each space. Then, do two-foot jumps forward. Step sideways on the left and step the right foot in, then the left foot in, then out to the right, then back to the left and so on. Try shuffling sideways straight through the ladder leading with the left foot, then back leading with the right.

Core Stabilization

  • Plank – Lie on your stomach with your forearms/elbows on the ground.  Rise up so that you are resting on your forearms and toes. Your stomach should be drawn in with your back straight.  Hold for 30 seconds – 2 minutes.  Repeat 5-10 times.
  • Superman – Lie on your stomach with your arms and legs extended.  Retract your shoulder blades down and in towards the midline of your spine with your ab muscles drawn in.  Maintain this position while lifting your opposite arm and leg.  Ensure your hips stay in contact with the floor. Hold for 3-5 seconds.  Repeat 10-20 times.

Leg Power:

  • Parallel Squats – Stand with your feet parallel, about shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing straight forward or slightly outward.  Place a weighted bar (or even a broom handle) across the back of your shoulders.  Push your hips backward and lower your butt until the top of your thighs are parallel to the floor.  Your feet should be flat on the floor with your weight on your heels.  Rise back up to your starting position while keeping your heels flat on the ground.  Repeat 10-20 times.
  • Lunges – Stand like you are beginning a Parallel Squat with a weighted bar or broom handle across your shoulders.  Take a step forward with one leg so that your front knee is aligned over your heel.  Drop your back knee straight down until it is about 1/4 inch from the floor.  Use your stepping foot to push you back into your starting position.  Repeat this sequence with your other leg.  Do 15-25 reps on each side.

Are you ready to take your athletic training to the next level and train like a professional athlete?  Learn about Fitness for Health’s EDGE Athletic Training for adults and kids.  We can help you become stronger, faster and more explosive while improving bone and joint health and maintaining weight management. Just ask EDGE Athletic Training participants Jerome Couplin III, former NFL linebacker and current player in the Canadian Football League, or Professional Boxer and Boxcino 2015 Jr. Middleweight Champion John “Apollo Kidd” Thompson.

Need a Vacation Day? Meditate

Do you need a vacation this summer but are strapped for cash? Try meditating.

A new study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology says that just 15 minutes of meditation can have the same positive effect on your well-being as one vacation day.

A team at the University of Groningen researched 40 students and community members in an 8-week study which required them to meditate for 15 minutes a day for two non-consecutive weeks while completing daily mood surveys. The researchers tracked when participants went on vacation, which allowed them to study how a short meditation session can affect their mood while taking a vacation day.

The team found that just 15 minutes of meditation was associated with similar effects as a day of vacation on aspects of mindfulness.

Christopher May, study author and assistant professor at the University of Groningen, said, “Both meditators and vacationers reported heightened awareness of their environment and greater equanimity in experiencing their emotions.”

Even the busiest person can find 15 minutes a day to meditate in order to refresh and alleviate your mood!

Fitness for Health creates unique exercise programs based on a person’s individual fitness goals.  Want to learn how to improve your exercise habits?  Need motivation sticking to an aerobic schedule?  No problem!  Whether you are a young child or a child at heart, Fitness for Health can you help you achieve your fitness goals.  Visit www.FitnessForHealth.org to learn about our exercise and sports programs.

Do You Have a “Dad Bod”?

Happy – almost – Father’s Day! Do you or your father have a “dad bod”?

Did you know that you don’t have to run wind sprints and complete athletic training for hours a day like a NFL quarterback in order to be in great shape and continue weight management? It’s true!

What if you just want to get healthier? Do you need to have the public’s perception of the “perfect” body to be in shape? Not necessarily.

For some, aspiring to achieve a sculpted body may be a motivating factor in making healthy changes and renewing commitment to athletic training. However, if you do the work and don’t get as toned and muscular as some of the athletes you see on TV, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re unhealthy and out of shape. It is possible to have a “dad bod” (or a “mom bod”) and still be healthy.

As a Certified Athletic Trainer and the founder of Fitness for Health, an exercise facility working with children through senior citizens and professional athletes in the Washington, DC, area that specializes in athletic training using state-of-the-art, exergaming technology, I believe that, ultimately, fitness has less to do with how you look and more about how you feel, and what your body can do. It’s all about working toward being the healthiest you can be. If aspiring toward the “perfect body” helps you get there, that’s fine. But don’t get discouraged if you don’t achieve it; being “ripped” is not the end-all, be-all of health.

About Fitness for Health:

Do you or your child want an athletic edge for fall sports? Want to train like a professional athlete?

Try EDGE Training – Athletic Performance Development to improve hand-eye coordination, visual reaction time, peripheral awareness, agility, balance, proprioception and athletic conditioning utilizing the latest in exergaming technology.  All are areas that will make the difference – and give you the EDGE during game time.

Call (301) 231-7138 or register for a FREE tour or open house to learn more.