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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Benefits of Biking for Exercise and Fitness

ThinkstockPhotos-103584987-1Biking can have significant benefits to your overall health and fitness! If you are looking for something to try this summer that maybe you haven’t done before, consider hopping onto your bike…remember that’s that thing stashed in the back corner of the garage with flat tires and cobwebs hanging off the back of it!

I often find myself wondering what different things I can do for a workout, and since I began to incorporate biking into my routine, I have found some benefits it adds to my other workouts. Let’s take a look at what some of those are.

  • Good for your cardiovascular health. Most people consider cardio exercise as running, using the elliptical, or power walking, but throwing in some biking is proven to increase your cardiovascular fitness.
  • Helps to build muscle. Biking helps to both tone and build muscle fibers, specifically in the lower extremities targeting the calves, thighs, and buttocks. It’s also a great low-impact exercise and takes the pressure off the hip, knee, and ankle joints. If you are recovering from injuries, biking can help keep you fit and active.
  • Burns calories. As with many cardio exercises, you can burn a good amount of calories while cycling, and it will increase your metabolism once the workout is finished. To be most efficient, you want to ride faster than a leisurely pace and work through some hills or intervals when possible.
  • Helps with coordination. When you cycle you use every part of your body, which forces you to work on coordination skills. As you go, you move both feet simultaneously as well as use your body weight to shift the bike through turns, using both arms at the same time to turn, brake, and change gears. It takes some mental focus to think about all those steps, even while you’re just cruising.
  • Aids your psyche. Biking, like all exercise, is good for your overall mental health. Exercise helps to release endorphins, which keep you relaxed and reduce your levels of stress.
  • Helps with longevity. According to an article put out by the Environmental Health Perspective, the benefits of biking outweigh the risks for increasing your lifespan. Cycling, as discussed before, increases your cardiovascular health, which directly correlates to lifespan.
  • Strengthens your immune system. All exercise, including biking, helps to strengthen your immune system to fight off sickness and infection.

You can see that more than being an enjoyable leisure activity, biking can significantly add to your overall health. I have enjoyed doing some biking this summer and encourage you to give it a try outdoors at some of these local places: 

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This blog was written by Amanda Bireline, Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: cardio calories attitude balance immunity biking muscle building

Thomas’s Corner: Nuts About the Nutrition in Nuts

ThinkstockPhotos-178017024Nuts, basically one of the original food groups and predating even the most basic diet, have been a part of human existence since the beginning, and there is good reason. They taste good and are loaded with nutrients. The properties and benefits of nuts vary based on each individual nut, with some options being a little healthier than others.

Nuts Are Healthiest Without Embellishment

There are some ground rules that I would like to set regarding healthy nuts. 

Try not to add chocolate to the equation. Although chocolate has its good qualities, we also know that added calories would diminish our gains from the nuts.

Salt, like chocolate, has added value in taste but is not recommended for individuals who are heart conscious. For that matter, I don’t recommend added anything, whether it be chocolate, salt, sugar, etc.

Health Benefits of Nuts

“Now wait a minute, this sounds like a lot of work,” you may say. This is where you are mistaken. Eating nuts can be an enjoyable way to get variety in your diet and healthful nutrition. For instance, almonds, cashews, pecans, brazil nuts, macadamias, pistachios, hazelnuts, and walnuts boast tons of benefits, including but not limited to fighting inflammation, improving digestion, raising immunity, lowering LDL, fighting cancer, and even making coffee taste better.

Nutritional Information About Nuts

Nuts can differ in size, shape, texture, and taste, but overall, they are fairly similar in calories per ounce and fat. The pistachio weighs in pretty light on the calorie scale at about 160 calories and 14 grams of fat per 50 nuts, while the Brazil nut is 185 calories and 18 grams of fat for 5 to 6 nuts. The healthy properties of the Brazil nut, though, outweigh the difference in that they contain a fair amount of selenium (which, in recommended doses, has been linked to fighting certain cancers).

With all the benefits nuts pose for our health, it is easy to see why they belong in the Mount Rushmore of edibles. Do yourself a favor and accentuate your diet… because nuts are taking over!

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood. For more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition Thomas' Corner healthy eating disease prevention immunity protein heart disease

Should You Work Out When You’re Sick?

482395581This is the time of year when everyone seems to be getting sick. A head cold, the flu, a constant cough, a sore throat, chest cold, sinus infection…you name it, it’s around. I know when I am under the weather, one question that comes to my mind is, “Should I work out, or should I just let my body rest for a few days?”

For the avid exerciser, a few days may seem like months taken off your performance. There are lots of ways to look at this topic, and truly I think it depends on what type of illness you have. But let’s take a look at a few things to help you determine whether working out while you are ill is a good idea or a bad one.

Definite No:

  • If you have a fever, you should definitely skip the workout. When you have a fever, raising your internal body temperature through working out can make you even sicker, so stay home and lay low. Typically, you are contagious for 5 to 7 days when you have a fever, so steer clear of the gym.
  • If you are vomiting or have diarrhea, do not work out. This is the time that it’s most important to stay in bed and rest.
  • According to an article in Men’s Fitness, if you are starting to feel sick and end up feeling worse after you complete your workout, cut back and take a break.

Possibly Yes:

  • If you have a runny nose or just a sniffle, it’s most likely okay to work out. The Mayo Clinic says exercise may even make you feel better by opening up your nasal passages and help relieve nasal congestion.
  • Dr. Neil Schachter, a physician from Mt. Sinai Medical Center, has a good method to help determine whether you can work out. It’s called the Neck Check. If your symptoms are above the neck, including a sore throat, nasal congestion, sneezing, and watery eyes, you are okay to exercise. Exercise does raise the body’s immune system, helping to defend it and fight off illness.

The most important thing to do is listen to your body. If you cannot do something, then it is important to stop and don’t try to force yourself to keep going. Know that it is okay to not work out for a few days if you are sick; sometimes resting the body is the answer. Oftentimes the human body gets run down, lowering the immune system, and causing you to get sick in the first place.

If you do choose to work out, just play it smart. Maybe consider a walk instead of a hard run, or a light bike instead of heavy weightlifting. The most important thing is to get healthy again so you can get back to your routine, so do what your body is asking you to do!

This blog was written by Amanda Bireline, Health Fitness Specialist. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

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Topics: healthy habits workouts illness immunity