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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Ellyn Grant

Recent Posts by Ellyn Grant:

Staying Well in the Winter: Tips for Cold-weather Wellness

GettyImages-613030648.jpgWinter is fast approaching; it officially begins on Thursday, December 21. With temperatures getting colder and the weather conditions more temperamental, it’s important to plan ahead to stay on top of your wellness goals. Distractions are inevitable during the holidays, but anticipating them and reacting accordingly will set you apart from most individuals during this season. See our tips below to help combat being sidelined this season

  • Plan ahead. Parties and gatherings are part of the fun of the season, but may throw a wrench into your normal schedule. Take a look at your calendar at least once a week and schedule in your workouts beforehand. Don’t be afraid to get creative!
  • Grab a friend. Not feeling motivated? Partnering up to exercise is a great way to create accountability while also enjoying hanging out with your friends. Try a new class or step out of your comfort zone.
  • Dress appropriately. If you don’t want to be stuck inside during the cold weather, make sure to wear the proper gear. Check out this article about winter running wear to determine whether your winter workout wardrobe needs an upgrade, and then see these other tips for preparing for a winter run.
  • Write down your goals. In addition to having a workout partner, do some goal setting, and post them somewhere visible—like the fridge!
  • Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep. If you are starting to feel run-down, it is extremely important to make sure you are getting a sufficient amount of sleep. Lack of sleep reduces the amount of antibodies and cells that fight disease and infection.
  • Take advantage of seasonal activities. No time to fit in the gym? Stay active in your events! Try ice skating, cutting down your own Christmas tree, or walking around a holiday market.

Most importantly, remember to enjoy the season and surround yourself with friends and family. Creating a well-rounded exercise program will help you stay on top of your goals while still taking advantage of seasonal festivities. Have questions? A NIFS trainer can help set you up for success!

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This blog was written by Ellyn Grant, Healthy Lifestyle Coordinator. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS goal setting holidays accountability winter wellness cold weather

Are You Getting Enough Sleep? Simple Solutions for Beating Insomnia

GettyImages-469577750.jpgMatthew Walker, the director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, has made it his career goal to reinforce the fact that 20 large-scale epidemiological studies have all reported the same relationship: the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life. Today, one in three Americans can be categorized as sleep deprived.

The Effects of Sleep Deprivation

As defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sleep deprivation is a condition that occurs if you don't get enough sleep. Not only does a shortage of sleep affect your productivity, but on less than seven hours of sleep, your body's natural killer cells work less effectively. Walker notes that between 1950 and 2017, the US obesity rate has risen from 13% to the likes of 35%.

“Sleep is the single most effective thing you can do to reset your brain and body.”
—Dr. Matthew Walker, U.C., Berkeley

As obesity in America has steadily risen, the amount of sleep individuals are accumulating per night has decreased—almost two and a half hours, to be exact. Not only is sleep deprivation being glorified as an accomplishment in today’s society, extensive research has concluded that sleep deprivation puts unnecessary stress on the human body, including weight gain. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to an increase in heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes.

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) outlines that both young adults (ages 18–25) and adults (ages 26–64) should aim for 7–9 hours per night consistently. Sounds easy, right? With the prevalence of social media alongside TV and cell phone usage at night, however, most Americans fall short.

Five Tips for Overcoming Insomnia

Here are some tips from the NSF to help you capture the ZZZs and start sawing logs in no time.

  • Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wakeup time, even on the weekends. This helps regulate your body clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
  • Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress, or anxiety, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep, or remain asleep.
  • Exercise daily. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.
  • Evaluate your room. Your bedroom should be cool—between 60 and 67 degrees. Check your room for noises or other distractions. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, earplugs, “white-noise" machines, humidifiers, fans, and other devices.
  • If you can't sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired. It is best to take work materials, computers, and televisions out of the sleeping environment. If you associate a particular activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, omit it from your bedtime routine.

If you’re still having trouble sleeping after following the above tips, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor or to find a sleep professional in your area. Check out the following resources for more information.

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This blog was written by Ellyn Grant, Healthy Lifestyle Coordinator. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: disease prevention sleep productivity heart disease obesity insomnia sleep deprivation

Turning Irrational Exercise Habits into a Healthy Lifestyle

It’s time to change our mindset.

ThinkstockPhotos-79071728.jpg“Our mindset” refers to every individual who has ever had one slice of pizza too many and subsequently tortured themselves on the treadmill because of it. Exercise is not punishment and should not be viewed as such. If you consistently and begrudgingly plan your workout routine around your indulgences, fitness becomes an irrational afterthought. A healthy lifestyle includes both enjoying the sweeter (or more savory) things in life, as well as enjoying a sweat session for the benefits of fitness. Your body is built to be listened to, and practicing a balanced lifestyle will help you reap not only better health, but also performance benefits.

Turning Your Mindset Toward Rational Fitness

Instead of being mad at the alarm clock, rolling out of bed, and dragging yourself to the gym, find an activity that brings you joy. If a 6am spinning class makes you actually want to get out of bed, go ahead and rock it, but if it doesn’t, don’t be afraid to try something new. Anna Maltby, Director of Health and Wellness at Refinery29, says it best: "It's about focusing on the wonderful things that exercise does for you so it makes you healthier, it helps you sleep, it gives you less pain, and puts you in a better mood ... and makes you live longer (2016).” If your current exercise habits are leading you to dread your time spent being active and not appreciate how good it makes you feel, it is time to reevaluate your mindset.

In order to change your mindset and think about an exercise program more positively, you must first cultivate your intent (or create a goal). Think about the desired outcome and the reasons behind your decision to develop an exercise routine. If you can connect your intent with a statement or even an item, the days when motivation is hard to find will eventually get easier and become habitual, no matter what you ate the day before! Don’t hesitate to take the class you are interested in or pick a workout you love just because everyone else isn’t doing it. Adhering to newfound goals and focusing your intent is the beginning of a lifelong wellness journey.

Three Tips for Motivation

Once you find your reason why, self-motivation is often the biggest hurdle. Following are three great strategies to facilitate and guide you to approaching exercise in a positive way.

  • Do the small things well. When writing down your main goal, also include 1 to 3 micro-goals that will help you keep track of your progress. Make sure to take the necessary time to learn the movement before moving on to the next, more difficult progression. This will also help you build confidence in and out of the gym.
  • Claim your autonomy. Hold yourself accountable for your routine. Develop and establish the authority to control your workout schedule while also being flexible. Work meetings, family events, or social activities happen and it’s okay to rearrange without beating yourself up about it.
  • Stay positive. It’s easy to be swept up in stress and forget why you started your journey in the first place. Create a gratitude journal and write at least one thing you are thankful for each day. Don’t forget to reflect on the goodness that surrounds you.

No matter what your mindset toward exercise has been in the past, you can always make a change today!

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This blog was written by Ellyn Grant, Healthy Lifestyle Coordinator. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: exercise motivation accountability mindset rational fitness healthy lifestyle

Choosing a Fitness Professional: Finding the Right One for You

Kris-52.jpgIn an industry that is constantly evolving, the world of fitness is never boring. As a fitness professional, I get a lot of questions about what I do and why I do it. Each question, although relatively complex, has a simple answer.

I chose my profession because I love to motivate, converse, educate, and be enthusiastic around other people. My passion made college classes and clinical research thrilling. I also wholeheartedly believe that a healthy lifestyle extends positively to all aspects of an individual’s life, as well as their family, friends, and coworkers. The human body is miraculous and deserves to be treated so.

The incidence and severity of disease can be decreased through regular physical activity (insert flashing neon arrows). Even so, large populations of individuals still do not have the knowledge to maintain an active lifestyle for themselves or their families as preventative action. It is my career goal to educate those individuals who might not know where to begin or how to progress, or have diminished hope, through behavioral-change goals. However, in an industry that also has many non-credible sources and educators, it is important to be able to separate the two.

Below are some of the regularly asked questions within our field and their answers to help you in choosing a fitness professional who best fits into your plan.

What Is a Fitness Professional?

The best definition of a fitness professional comes from the American College of Sports Medicine:

“A Health Fitness Professional has a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science. The individual performs pre-participation health screenings, conducts physical fitness assessments, interprets results, develops exercise prescriptions, and applies behavioral and motivational strategies to apparently healthy individuals and individuals with medically controlled diseases and health conditions to support clients in adopting and maintaining healthy lifestyle behaviors. Academic preparation also can include fitness management, administration, and supervision.” (2015)

How Do You Become a Fitness Professional?

To become a fitness professional an individual must obtain a four-year degree or a graduate degree in Exercise Science, Kinesiology, Health Studies or in a health and fitness–related field. After graduating, an exam is taken through a certifying body, such as the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) or the National Academy for Sports Medicine (NASM). Some of the most common exams include the Certified Exercise Physiologist (formerly Health Fitness Specialist) and the Certified Personal Trainer. If an individual is in a cardiac rehab environment and obtains 400/500 hours of clinical exercise programming, the professional can then apply to take a clinical-level exam.

How Do Fitness Professionals Stay Up-to-Date?

ACSM is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world, and they continue to set the standards in the fitness industry. ACSM requires a minimum number of CECs (continuing education credits) and CEUs (continuing education units) in a three-year period to maintain certification.

NASM, a leader in providing technology-based education and certification solutions, also offers CEUs alongside specialization exams.

Alongside CECs, CEUs, and specialization exams, individuals can subscribe to additional research publications and continue to take certifying exams. Attending conferences, taking graduate classes in the field, and meeting other individuals in the industry is also a great way to network and learn from peers.

How Do I Choose a Fitness Professional That Is Right for Me?

Today, many individuals market themselves as trainers or nutritionists. When choosing an individual to work with, ask about their education and background, how many clients they have worked with, and their specializations. Working directly with an individual is similar to hiring for a job; don’t be afraid to ask for their resume or references! An individual who is qualified should happily comply.

It is also important to remember that a fitness professional is not a Registered Dietitian (RD). According to ethical guidelines, a fitness professional can discuss and provide insight into healthy alternatives but can’t develop meal plans or suggest drastic diet changes. For in-depth nutrition advice, a fitness professional should always refer to an RD. Fitness and nutrition go hand in hand, but knowing scope of practice is important.

At NIFS, we pride ourselves on providing the most well-rounded professionals for every health and wellness need. For more information on what qualifications a fitness professional should have, check out the following resources.

“Exercise is really important to me—it’s therapeutic.” —Michelle Obama

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This blog was written by Ellyn Grant, Healthy Lifestyle Coordinator. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS nutrition personal trainer exercise science certification choosing a fitness professional