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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

How to Make Time for Health During the Busy Holidays

The holidays are known as a time of temptation, bustling around, and busy schedules. It’s part of what makes me love the holiday season so much. Despite the cheerful feelings in the air, many times when we get busy, nutritious foods and regular exercise are the first things to go!

I can definitely relate to feeling the holiday rush and not knowing where or when to fit in my healthy lifestyle. I also know that with a little pre-planning and a conscious effort put into my food and exercise routine, I feel much happier overall and I am able to enjoy fun holiday events even more! Whether you are attending holiday parties, working long hours, or enjoying your child’s holiday performance, it’s still important to make time for health.

Here are my six tips for staying healthy during the busy holiday season.

1. Schedule the Appointment

At the end of the weekend, I like to take out my planner and write down my workouts where I have time available (in ink!). This allows me to know ahead of time I have an appointment. And just as if I were meeting with someone for business, I don’t want to miss it or be late. Looking at my time day by day, and sometimes hour by hour, makes the busy schedule seem a lot more manageable and allows me to find empty time pockets that I can fill if necessary.

2. Make It a Traditionworkout buddy

A couple of years ago, I signed up for my first Thanksgiving morning run and it was a blast! There were tons of crazy costumes, families, and runners of all experience levels participating. The atmosphere was so happy and inviting! Having the race to look forward to kept me on task for the month of November, as I knew I needed to stay in shape to complete the race and feel good the rest of the day. I enjoyed the race so much that I have signed up for a race every year since, and now I am getting my family involved!

3. Cook in Batchesbatch cooking

Make batches of healthy meals and snacks at the beginning of the week so you aren't tempted by holiday treats at all times. I make this a habit even when it’s not the holiday season. It could be as simple as roasting extra veggies, cooking extra chicken or fish to throw on salads, or making sure all of your produce is clean and cut so you can grab and go at any time. Holiday treats are part of the season, so enjoy them, but don’t shape your entire holiday diet around them.

4. Combine Workout with Workbatch cooking

I know how it feels to have a big exam coming up that consumes every thought in my head, or extra work that needs to be completed away from the office. Having things like this on my mind have made me feel guilty about taking the time out of my schedule to get some physical activity in. Luckily, I have found a way to squeeze in some extra work while getting my exercise in. Read your notes while riding a stationary bike, running on the treadmill, or using the elliptical. It may not be your preferred mode of activity, but it is still movement. Combining the two things on your to-do list will hopefully give you a little break in your schedule so you can spend your spare time celebrating rather than at the gym.

5. Pack Your Bagworkout bag

Preparing for the next day the night before helps me stay focused and not miss any appointments I may have coming up, and that includes my workout appointment with myself! I pack my entire bag the night before so I can get up early to work out before my day starts or hit the gym right after work—if you are lucky, squeeze it in during lunch! No matter what, your bag will be packed and ready to go, leaving you with no excuses.

6. Find a Workout Buddy

Having a partner in crime for any activity makes it more enjoyable, and the same is true with working out! Another option is to attend a group class. Meeting the others in the group will help hold you accountable for showing up each day. They will help motivate you during the workout, too!

If you need some extra motivation, NIFS offers Group Training classes throughout the week to keep you on track during the holidays!

This blog was written by Tara Deal Rochford, NIFS Membership Manager and a group fitness instructor. Author of Treble in the Kitchen. Meet our other NIFS bloggers.

Topics: exercise fitness nutrition staying active motivation healthy eating

No-Equipment-Needed Workouts for Holiday Travel

With the holiday season upon us, we can almost guarantee that at some point we will be expected to travel. Sometimes we only have short trips that make for a nice recharging, but other trips can last much longer. Couple that with limitations on equipment and less-than-desirable food options and we have an instant cause for concern. Because that workout your trainer prescribes relies heavily on bands, ropes, foam rollers and weights, you may think you are without a workout plan. But don't give up on your workout just yet, here are some ideas on what you can do with little to no equipment.

Do Stretching Exercises

To maintain flexibility, stretching through dynamic movement patterns is ideal and can be done in a small area. Inch Worms, Knee Ups, and Jumping Jacks are all good examples of dynamic movement patterns.

Perform Simple Exercises That Use Multiple Muscle Groups

To simplify your workout, you can focus on a few great exercises that work multiple muscle plankgroups. These exercises can range from beginner to advanced, with the functionally basic movement of sit and stand at a chair to the more challenging Burpees (add a pushup and squat jump for even more workload). The Plank exercise is also one of the best exercises for building endurance in the abs, back, core, glutes and hip flexor. To make the Plank easier add an incline or lower knees to the floor. For a greater challenge increase the period of time you hold the plank or add movement such as leg lifts or arm extensions.

Cardio Exercises at the Hotel

suitcase carrystairsThere are other “tools” you can use while on the go that you may not realize. For a cardio option, most hotels have a staircase. Use it! Avoid the elevator and take the stairs instead. For a challenge, run the stairs for ten minutes (and because most people use the elevator, it should be mostly empty for your use). Suitably known as a suitcase carry, your suitcase can be used for a one-sided farmer's carry walk that pinpoints your oblique (like a side plank), and a bathroom towel can be used to create an isometric static hold for countless upper-body exercises.

Whether or not you are on the go for the holidays, be sure to exercise the next time you travel; it’s easier than you think. See a health fitness specialist or personal trainer to help design a workout plan that is right for you.

Be sure to sign up for upcoming NIFS exclusive programs geared toward your goals (such as Maintain Not Gain, Slim It to Win It, or Summer Showdown).

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, Health Fitness Specialist at NIFS. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.
Topics: exercise cardio staying active healthy habits Thomas' Corner holidays muscles Summer Showdown

NIFS 25th Anniversary: Charter Member Ronald Cooper

RonaldCooper 15
Charter member Ronald Cooper talks about a few of his favorite things
at NIFS! Watch his video!
Topics: exercise fitness nutrition staying active fitness center motivation anniverary

NIFS 25th Anniversary: Charter Member Rick Hurst

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Charter member Rick Hurst talks about his favorite activities at NIFS and what has kept him coming back for 25 years. Click here to watch his video.


Topics: NIFS exercise fitness cardio staying active fitness center workouts anniversary

How to Live a Healthy Lifestyle in College

With NIFS being located on the campus of IUPUI, it is hard not to notice the campus’s schedule and all of the students bustling between classes. Several students stop into our fitness center for advice so they can avoid the “freshman 15” or get their healthy habits back on track.

Now that school is in full swing and you have your classes and routine figured out, it is a good time to take a look at your healthy habits or areas that could use a little tweaking in the health department. I know how tough being in college can be, but it doesn’t mean that all healthy decisions have to fall to the wayside. This is a crucial time in your life when new routines are developed, so why not develop healthy habits that you will have for life?

College is a time when you go through many changes all at once, so it’s important to not only focus on putting healthy foods in your body, but also to be healthy physically, mentally, and socially, too! Not to worry; it may be challenging at times dealing with so many new things all at once, but I promise you will make it through.

You may be a new college student, in your third or fourth year of college, preparing to go to college, or helping a loved one get ready for his or her college experience. Whatever the case, these tips will help keep anyone college-bound healthy, balanced, and happy!

1. Create a Routineplanner

Every person functions differently. Some people are planners and some people thrive on spontaneity. Whatever the case, your body needs a little bit of routine. Make sure that you are orderly with things you do each day. For example, keeping your keys, ID cards, and notebooks in the same place each day will save you the stress of searching and scrambling last minute to find these items before each class. This extra time will also allow for more “free time” when you can do spontaneous and fun things to keep your mental and social health balanced.

2. Begin with Breakfastpeanut oats

Breakfast is the meal that boosts your blood sugar and metabolism, and can set the tone for the entire day. Skipping breakfast can lead to moodiness, low blood sugar, and overeating later in the day. Remember that you don't have to eat "breakfast" for breakfast. If you want leftovers from the night before, go for it! The important thing is to include complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fat to increase your focus, metabolism, and energy. If you don’t want to eat in the dining hall, an easy dorm room breakfast is hot oats cooked in the community microwave topped with a dollop of nut butter and a side of fruit that you grabbed from the dining hall the night before.

3. Hydrate

Keep in mind that the calories in your drinks count toward your daily calories, too. If you are feeling thirsty, you are already dehydrated, and often thirst can be mistaken for hunger. Choose water when you can, and keep a fun water bottle or cup with you at all times to encourage drinking throughout the entire day.

4. Schedule Physical Activity and Make it FUN!group fitnees

Don’t like going to the gym? You don’t have to! Since I work at NIFS you probably think I am crazy for saying that! The thing is, your body doesn’t know whether you are running inside on a treadmill or playing a game of soccer. What your body does know is it was meant to move, so schedule some fun active time in your day just like a class or appointment. Sign up for an intramural sport, try a group fitness class, join a running group, volunteer at the animal shelter to walk dogs, sign up for a dance class, and get creative! Find something you love and do it.

5. Be Prepared

Although it may be hard to pack an entire healthy meal when living in a dorm, packing a snack can be easy! Some fruits and vegetables require little to no preparation (such as apples, oranges, peaches, cherry tomatoes, and snap peas) and can be thrown into your school bag for an easy energy booster. This can lift your mood and sharpen your focus to help prevent the afternoon blues and help increase your productivity while studying. Having water and emergency snacks on hand will also make it less likely for you to reach for fast food as a regular option.

6. Indulge!cookies

In moderation, it's okay to eat your favorite treat every once in a while. Things like ice cream, fast food, chocolate, or a special coffee drink are perfectly fine to enjoy...sometimes. It's not what you do every once in a while, it's what you do every day that makes a difference.

At NIFS we are here to help, and we couldn’t be more conveniently located for students in central Indianapolis.

We offer fun group fitness classes that are included in your membership. We have a Registered Dietitian on staff who can help you create a meal plan that will work with your campus lifestyle. And our Health and Fitness Specialists will create a workout plan for you for free.

If you have questions about student membership or any of the programs that we have available to help you live a healthy campus lifestyle please e-mail membership at membership@nifs.org.

This blog was written by Tara Deal Rochford, NIFS Membership Manager and a group fitness instructor. Author of Treble in the Kitchen.Meet our other NIFS bloggers.

Topics: NIFS exercise nutrition staying active healthy habits group fitness healthy eating snacks outdoors

7 Quick Tips to Get Moving at Work

Are you one of the many Americans who are glued to a desk throughout the day? On top of that, do you have other responsibilities outside of your work hours that limit the amount of time that you can spend exercising throughout the week? Here are some ways that you can become more active at work. Remember, 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week can make a huge difference in your long-term health!

1. Bike or Walk to Workbusinessman walking

If you can ride a bike or walk to work each day, you can add a significant amount of physical activity minutes to your week. If you have a bike path or walking trail near your home that leads to your work, this is an excellent option. Many do not have this luxury or live too far away, but that doesn’t mean it is completely out of the question. If you have a longer commute, you can drive to a path and park nearby and bike or walk the remainder of the trip. This is a great solution for those who work in busy cities.

2. Take the Stairs

Even if you are stuck at a desk the majority of the day, you can get in some quick cardio bursts if you have a set of stairs in your building. Anytime you have the opportunity to switch to a different floor, utilize the stairs instead of the elevators. For example, instead of using the restroom that is a few steps from your office, take the stairs to a restroom on a different level to sneak in some extra steps. (You can even go up and down a few extra times while you are up!) 

3. Walk on Your Lunch Break

Squeeze in a few extra minutes on your lunch break by taking a stroll around the block or through the hallways. If your time is limited, do not underestimate the value of a short 10-minute walk. The small additions of physical activity throughout your day add up fast! Some companies even offer incentive programs at work for walking so be sure to join in!

4. Walk During Meetings and Brainstorms

When possible, have meetings while walking. This can be especially beneficial during brainstorms. Instead of sitting for 20 minutes with a colleague discussing the next task, walk!

5. Desk Exercises

When you feel like you have brain block or just need to pause for a few minutes from what you are doing, complete a few exercises right at your desk! Try alternating between incline push-ups on your desk and body-weight squats for 3 sets, 10 to 15 reps for each exercise, for a quick burst of energy. All you need is your own body weight and your desk!

6. Sit on a Stability Ballbusiness women on ball

Not all companies will allow this, but if yours does you should definitely take advantage of it! Sitting on a stability ball throughout the day improves posture, strengthens the core, and is an excellent piece of equipment for a few quick desk exercises throughout the day. A regular stability ball will work, but balance ball chairs are excellent and provide additional ergonomic benefits.

7. Stand Up

Simply stand up at your desk when possible! Standing burns more calories than sitting and allows for your body to stretch from the seated position. Oftentimes we need to be seated to complete a job task, but you can easily stand during a phone call or while you are reading a long document. If you want to add an extra burst of cardio along with this, try marching in place to increase your heart rate.

Have specific questions on ways to incorporate more physical activity into your day? Sign up for a free fitness assessment with one of our expert trainers!

This blog was written by Stephanie Kaiser, ACSM certified Health Fitness Specialist. Meet our bloggers.

Topics: staying active walking employee health exercise at work

New to Exercise: 10 Minutes Makes a Difference!


Can you find two and a half hours in your weekly schedule to devote to exercise? Most adults would say NO WAY! Not with my job, running the kids around, taking care of the house, and taking care of my parents. We are all busy, but the truth is, it only takes two-and-a-half hours a week of your time to lower your risk for diseases such as cardiovascular disease, Type-2 Diabetes, and some cancers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

time to exercise

The Health Benefits of Even a Little Activity

Would you be able to complete your list of to-dos if you were dealing with a serious health condition? The same amount of activity will also help you to control your weight, improve your mental health, and increase the strength of your bones and muscles. Wouldn’t it be great to feel stronger physically and emotionally and to have more energy throughout the day? It is possible!

Take one of my clients who has a very hectic schedule himself that changes constantly, making it difficult to make it in to NIFS every day. To combat this, he has purchased a foot peddler that he keeps at his desk to sneak in some extra physical activity when he is working to keep him on track with his fitness goals.

Fitting in Small Bouts of Exercise at Work

Think about what works for your situation and how you can find the time. Another option is to take a few minutes to complete a few exercises at your desk such as an incline push-up or body-weight squat followed by a quick walk around your office space or up and down the stairwell. Other quick-fix options include parking farther away from the front door of the store or at work, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. You can do similar activities pretty much anywhere when you have a few minutes of downtime!

Finding the time is easier than you think! Even small bouts of exercise of only 10 minutes can contribute to your weekly total. First try to find time twice a day every day to walk for just 10 minutes. You only need to find 15 times a week (twice a day plus one extra) where you have 10 minutes to spare to reach your two-and-a-half hours! You could do this on your lunch break, while you are watching your kids practice, or by waking up 10 minutes earlier. Gradually, start adding more bouts of ten-minute activities into your day where you see fit. Making this positive change will make a huge difference in your health and you will be thanking yourself later in life for your lifestyle changes today!

Take that first step towards a more active lifestyle. Put down that mouse or smart phone right now and go for a 10-minute walk!

This blog was written by Stephanie Greer, NIFS certified Health Fitness Specialist. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

Topics: staying active healthy habits exercise at home walking exercise at work

Exercising After a Heart Attack Helps Avoid Depression

My grandpa was an active man for his entire life, so he had a hard time sitting still after his heart attack. He loved going to cardiac rehab so much that he kept attending even after he was told he had graduated and that he did not need to return upon completing the program. He knew that staying active was a key to his recovery and preventing further damage to his heart, and that sitting around would more than likely cause him to become depressed. His doctors encouraged physical activity but restricted him from participating in some activities, which included cutting firewood and shoveling snow.

exercise after heart attack

A Heart Attack Can Begin a Vicious Cycle of Depression and a Sedentary Lifestyle

A heart attack is a life-changing event that oftentimes occurs unexpectedly and can turn someone’s life upside-down. According to the American Heart Association, individuals are three times more likely to develop depression after a heart attack. Depression, being over cautious, or fear of another complication often leads these individuals to become sedentary. A sedentary lifestyle is dangerous because it can contribute to other health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and obesity, to name a few. Have you or someone you know become a victim of this reoccurring trend?

Talk to Your Doctor

Ask your doctor questions about physical activity following a heart attack. Your doctor can tell you how to safely add exercise back into your daily routine. They typically recommend starting slowly with low-impact activities such as swimming, walking, or biking, and exercising for only a few minutes at a time in the beginning before building up to longer durations.

So what are you waiting for? Go talk to your doctor about rebooting your activity level! If you have been cleared to begin an exercise routine check out the NIFS Lifestyle Rx Program, which serves individuals who have been dealing with chronic health conditions. This program provides individuals with monitoring and the appropriate tools needed to be successful with their fitness goals based on their fitness level and medical conditions.

This blog was written by Stephanie Greer, HFS at NIFS and Lifestyle Rx Program Coordinator. Contact Stephanie by email.

Topics: exercise depression staying active healthy habits heart attack

How to Beat the Winter Blues

The temperatures are still frigid, and there are days when it seems as if the sun doesn’t shine. This is the time of year when we can start to feel down and less motivated, and maybe start to develop a case of the winter blues.

It's easy for these negative thoughts to start creeping into our heads, but it is just as easy to kick these thoughts to the curb with these five simple steps.

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1. Stay Active

When the snow is blowing outside, the temperatures are below freezing, and the sun is not yet shining, it is easy to make excuses as to why you shouldn’t go to the gym. The thing is, you don’t have to go to the gym to be and stay active. You can complete a NIFS workout at home, throw in a fitness DVD, or embrace the cold weather and participate in a cold-weather sport such as skiing or snowboarding. Being active helps to relieve stress, elevate your mood, and increase your energy and metabolism throughout the day. All you have to do is get moving!

2. Eat a Healthy Diet

The foods that we put into our body have a huge effect on our mood and energy levels. Refined and processed foods are not full of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that our bodies crave. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins will give your body nutrients to give you the energy that you want and need to move through the day with ease.

3. Plan Something for the Future

Now this won’t provide you with instant satisfaction, but it will give you something to look forward to when the warmer months come. You can plan a trip, sign up for a race, or just plan a weekend with your friends. Having that “thing” in the near future to look forward to will be like the carrot dangling in front of you to keep you pushing through these dreary winter months and looking forward to something brighter.

4. Treat Yourself Now!

Planning something for the future is great to keep you going, but you should also reward yourself for your hard work, healthy eating habits, trying that new workout, acing the test, or whatever you have accomplished right now! Treat yourself to a manicure or pedicure, a new clothing item, time with your friends, a special event, or anything else that makes you happy. Winter can seem endless, but with little treats to look forward to, the dark and cold days will go by more quickly.

5. Soak Up the Sun

Even though the temperatures may be chilly, the sun still shines! Many people know that the sun is a great source of Vitamin D, but the sun also lifts your mood. The colder and shorter days during the winter months cause many people to spend more time indoors. A lack of sunlight can cause people to feel depressed or sad. Sunlight effects our mood by releasing neurotransmitters in the brain that effect mood (very similar to exercise!). Instead of cozying up in front of the TV, embrace the cold weather, bundle up, and spend some time outside. You can also soak up the sun simply by sitting near the window!

Using these five ideas, your winter will fly by and spring will be here before you know it!

Written by Tara Deal, NIFS Group Fitness Instructor and author of Treble in the Kitchen.

Topics: NIFS exercise fitness winter fitness depression cardio nutrition staying active healthy habits exercise at home