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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

How Getting Outdoors Helps Your Well-Being

GettyImages-857107456nGrowing up and continuing to live in the Midwest, I’ve grown to appreciate the summer months more and more. In fact, in Michigan we joke that there are really only two seasons:

  1. Sweltering summer with a side of construction.
  2. The endless frozen tundra that is 8 months of winter.

Long story short? When it’s nice enough to not have to wear a parka to brave the outdoors, you best believe I’m outside on a bike ride, relaxing by a lake, or unplugging on a hike in the woods during my down time.

Recharging Your Batteries with Nature

I’ve always felt like this has helped me recharge my batteries, anecdotally at least. But now, more and more research is mounting to support the idea that simply being in nature has numerous benefits to health and well-being. For example, a meta-analysis completed by Jones & Twohig-Bennett (2018) found statistically significant decreases in diastolic blood pressure, incidence of diabetes, and salivary cortisol (hello decreases in stress), while also reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and improving life expectancy and mental health. Not too shabby, right?

Spend Two Hours or More Outside Each Week

But how much time do you need to spend in nature to reap the rewards for health and well-being? It looks like current research is supporting the 120-minute threshold per week.

White et al. (2019) examined results from the Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment Survey in England, which included 20,000 people over a three-year span. They found that those who reported being in nature for two hours or more during the week were overall healthier and had a greater sense of well-being compared to those who did not get outside at all. Spending 60 to 90 minutes came with some improvements, but it was not as significant an effect as two hours. And over 5 hours per week had no additional benefits. What’s more, these results rang true across all demographics examined in the study: age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, proximity to nature—all exhibited improvements to health and well-being at the two-hour mark.

So, the moral of the story? While the exact mechanism remains unknown, making time in your schedule to get outside in some way, shape, or form for two hours a week (in ANY increments of time) can not only help you mentally recharge, but also significantly improve your health and well-being going forward.

For some tips on exercising outdoors safely in the summer, check out this blog.

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This blog was written by Lauren Zakrajsek, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor, Personal Trainer, and Internship Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: outdoors cardiovascular outdoor exercise stress relief longevity nature mental health well-being

The Carb Conundrum: Avoid Them for Weight Loss and Healthy Eating?

GettyImages-902999388In recent years, carbohydrates have seemingly been blamed for our health problems. Many of us now shun potatoes, rice, and even fruit in fear of the dreaded pounds that could come with eating carbohydrates. While many diets demonize carbohydrates, others preach the benefits of higher-carbohydrate diets. Through all of this confusion, I will try to set the record straight.

No single food or food group should be blamed for weight gain or credited with weight loss. Carbohydrates span a broad range of foods, from beans, fruits, and veggies to pizza, pasta, cookies, and French fries. While we hate to oversimplify the equation, weight gain does come down to calories in versus calories out. If we eat too much of anything—even fruits and veggies—we will gain weight. The caveat is that fruits and veggies are nearly impossible to eat too much of because they are rich in fiber and low in calories, while other foods can pack a calorie-dense punch in a very small serving.

How easy is it to eat an entire bag of Chex Mix while you might struggle to eat half a cup of carrots?

Carbohydrates and a Healthy Diet

Carbohydrate-rich foods form the foundation of a healthy diet. The National Academy of Sciences recommends people consume 45–65% of their daily calories from carbohydrates. In a 2,000-calorie diet, this is equivalent to 225–335 grams daily. Carbohydrates are crucial for energy production in the body for working muscles, fuel for proper mental function, supplying vitamins and minerals, as well as providing large amounts of fiber for decreasing risk of chronic disease like heart disease and cancer. Many foods contain carbohydrates: whole grains, fruits, starchy veggies, milk and dairy, pasta, beans, and refined/processed foods.

Should I Avoid Carbohydrates?

In recent years, many have found lower-carbohydrate, higher-protein diets to be beneficial in weight loss. However, the long-term effects of such a diet are not well studied. Many “low-carb” diets can lead to an increase in foods like red meats, processed meats, and saturated fat–containing foods like cheese, butter, and cream. Carbohydrate-rich foods provide numerous health benefits and you should not avoid them. Certain areas of the world called Blue Zones offer an interesting look into the benefits of a higher-carbohydrate diet. They have not only the highest rates of longevity but also very low rates of chronic disease. Blue Zone populations consume 95% of their calories from vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes and eat meat sparingly.

“Good” Versus “Bad” Carbohydrates

But it is important to think about the types of carbohydrates you are consuming. Unrefined carbohydrates are unprocessed, whole foods that are high in fiber (and many other nutrients) and digest more slowly. Unprocessed, whole-food carbohydrates help you feel fuller and get you through the day feeling less hungry. Processed carbohydrates lack fiber and may have added oils and sugar—they can leave you feeling low on energy as they are quickly digested and burned for fuel. Unprocessed carbs are key to long-term health and can help with weight control. They also guard against type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular problems. Try to limit most processed carbohydrates because they are low in nutrients and high in calories.

Unprocessed Carbohydrates

  • Oats
  • Brown rice
  • Fruit
  • Beans
  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables

Processed Carbohydrates

  • Soda
  • Baked treats
  • Packaged sweets/snack foods
  • Fruit juice
  • Breakfast cereal
Did you now that in 1915 the average American consumed 17.5 pounds of added sugar in a year? As of 2011, the average American consumed over 150 pounds of sugar annually!

In summary, carbohydrates should be welcomed to not only help with weight management but also prevent disease. Make most of your carbohydrates whole, unprocessed foods for a balanced, healthy diet while enjoying the processed/refined carbohydrate foods in moderation. And if you’d like some help with figuring out what to eat, look into Nutrition Coaching at NIFS.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: weight loss healthy eating calories endurance disease prevention fiber energy whole foods carbs fruits and vegetables carbohydrates longevity

Ankle Mobility: Lower-Leg Stretches to Improve ROM and Decrease Injury

GettyImages-867056016-1Whether you are a seasoned workout veteran or the new face in the gym, there’s no denying that lower-leg pain can be a huge deterrent for exercise (and day-to-day life, for that matter). Some pains are dictated by the range of motion in the ankle. Due to several factors including previous injuries and wear and tear, physiological problems from the various shoes people wear, and the types of exercises people punish their bodies with, we see individuals every day who have a hard time performing some of the more basic exercises such as squats and deadlifting.

To hopefully achieve a better, safer exercise with less pain, it’s helpful to incorporate ankle mobility warmups into your routine and to be conscious of testing and retesting range of motion to monitor your progress. Here I cover some tests that are useful for checking your ankle mobility and some warmup stretches to get you heading in the right direction.

Testing Ankle Mobility

For testing and retesting your ankle mobility, NIFS uses a test that is included in the Fundamental Capacity Screen simply referred to as the Ankle Clearing Screen. What we want to see is whether your ankle mobility is capable and safe to perform a specific movement pattern. If not, we need to strategize ways to improve ROM and decrease chances for injury.

Dr. John Rusin describes a test you can do at home in which you stand, facing a wall, with your foot four inches away from the edge of the wall. While keeping your heel on the ground, try to touch your knee to the wall. It’s not as easy as it might seem, but being able to touch your knee to the wall is a sign of a healthy, mobile ankle. If you can’t do it and you want to improve, we have some work to do!

Stretches for Ankle Mobility

There are many stretches for ankle mobility that can help boost your ability. Starting with a simple ankle stretch at the wall, begin by pressing against the wall, keeping your heels flat on the floor. The more your body gets used to this movement, the farther you will be able to move your feet back (as long as your feet are flat on the ground). Holding for several seconds on each side, try to do this stretch daily or as often as you like to help get the ball rolling.

A similar way to stretch the ankle would be a self-stretch from a half-kneeling position. This is a simple yet effective movement that improves your flexibility over time. While keeping your foot flat, rock forward until you feel a stretch, then return to the starting position. Move your foot farther away from your body or closer to your body for a couple nice change-ups to the routine.

Lastly, if you were interested only in the exercise aspect and can’t find time to stretch, you can still do a squat pattern. The TRX Deep Squat is a good beginner squat that will help reestablish ankle mobility and train your body to work through the entire squat range of motion. Even sitting in the squat position feels good and helps the body get used to the pattern. Without weight to affect the body positioning, you will find this to be lower impact and a great jump off into doing traditional squats with great form.

Get Help from NIFS

Ankle mobility is where everything in the whole kinetic chain starts. If you have poor ankle mobility, chances are you aren’t going to be able to do the squats or hip hinge patterns effectively, which our bodies need to get stronger. This ripple effect passes all the way to the upper half of the body.

If you want more information or would like help improving your ankle mobility, please reach out to NIFS and one of our Health Fitness Specialists will help guide you in the right direction. Fundamental Capacity Screens are complimentary. Check with a NIFS staff member to see whether this type of testing is right for you.

As always, muscleheads evolve and rejoice!

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the other NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: Thomas' Corner injury prevention range of motion pain mobility assessments stretches ankle mobility lower leg

Macronutrients: The What, Why, and How of Tracking for Healthy Eating

GettyImages-1133846218 newA diet that is balanced in its macronutrient distribution can help reduce the risk of disease and help with lasting weight loss. You might have heard of others tracking their “macros” and wondered if this is something that you need to do. So, why and how do you do this tracking?

What Are Macronutrients?

The major macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates, and fat. All are essential to health and well-being. Since 1941, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has reviewed the latest science and pulled together a group of experts to make recommendations to the public. The latest recommendations were published in 2005. Some foods provide a mix of macronutrients (beans provide protein, carbohydrates, and sometimes a very small amount of fat), while others provide only one type of macronutrient (olive oil provides just fat). Whether they are a mix of macros or one type, they all serve a purpose.

Protein

Protein provides four calories per gram. Protein is vital for immune function, building and repairing tissue, cell signaling, hormones, and enzymes. Protein-rich foods include eggs, poultry, fish, tofu, lentils, and beans.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates provide four calories per gram as well. In your body, carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, a type of sugar that your body uses for immediate energy or stores in your liver and muscle for later use. Carbohydrates are found in almost all foods with the exception of oils/fats and meat—items like grains, starchy veggies, beans, dairy, and fruit contain carbohydrates.

Fat

Fat has the most calories at 9 calories per gram. Your body needs fat for energy, hormone production, and nutrient absorption. Fat is found in oils, butter, nuts, meat, and fatty fish.

What Is an Acceptable Distribution of Macronutrients?

The Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) is the range associated with reduced risk for chronic diseases while providing essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals. NAS has classified the following AMDR for adults as a percentage of calories as follows:

Protein: 10–35%

Fat: 20–35%

Carbohydrates: 45–65%

For example, an individual consuming 2,000 total calories per day will aim for approximately:

2,000 calories x 10 to 35% = 200–700 calories from protein OR  200–700 calories / 4 calories per gram = 50–175 grams of protein

2,000 calories x 20–35% = 400–700 calories from fat OR 400–700 calories / 9 calories per gram = 44–78 grams of fat

2,000 calories x 45–65% = 900–1300 calories from carbohydrates OR 900–1300 calories / 4 calories per gram = 225–325 grams of carbohydrates

How to Track Macros

  1. Determine your calorie needs (many formulas online, RMR testing at NIFS, and various apps will create calorie recommendations as well).
  2. Determine your macronutrient breakdown ( for example, if you’re very active, you may need more carbohydrates and protein).
  3. Log food intake into a journal like My Fitness Pal, Lose It, or My Macros+ app.

Keep in mind you might not always hit your goals precisely and the tools we have to calculate calories are not perfect. Food tracking is great for helping you get closer to your goals; but our bodies are not calculators, so give yourself a little “wiggle room” in your tracking.

Benefits of Tracking Macros

  • Improves diet quality: Instead of focusing on calories, where a bowl of oatmeal with nuts and fruit may be equal to a bowl of Lucky Charms cereal, you will focus on nutrients.
  • Helps with weight loss: Those who track food tend to lose more weight than those who do not track food intake.
  • Helps with specific goals: Those who are endurance athletes may need more carbohydrates than athletes who are lifting weights multiple times per week.

When Is Tracking Useful?

Those who thrive on structure may find tracking macronutrients to be something they enjoy, and very beneficial. It can help to increase your awareness of the quality of foods you are eating and the amount of healthy foods you are eating. (Those with a history of disordered eating should not track food intake.)

When first starting, you may find it overwhelming, but over time you find the foods and healthy eating patterns that help you hit your macronutrient goals. When tracking macronutrients, it is important to focus on a mainly whole-foods diet that emphasizes fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and protein. The benefits come from making adjustments as needed—not finding the perfect ratio from the very beginning. Many can eat a well-balanced diet without tracking intake—there is no one-size-fits-all plan—but rest assured: if most of your food was grown in the ground and everything else is included in moderation, you are giving your body just what it needs.

Contact Lindsey Hehman, RD, at lhehman@nifs.org for questions or to come up with more specific macronutrient goals.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition weight loss healthy eating protein technology carbs fat

The Do-Something Motivation Principle: Nike Was Right!

GettyImages-1086377774We’ve all been there, right? You’ve chosen a new habit that you want to form: go to the gym four times a week, choose one day a week to grocery shop and meal prep, maybe start work on that side hustle you’ve been meaning to do for years. You’re all in, gung-ho for about five days, and before you know it, you’ve fallen back into the same routine as before. That bright flame that once was your motivation has faded into the background. Now what?

Just Do Something

Relying too much on willpower or waiting for motivation to strike is one of the biggest pitfalls when it comes to habit formation, or just keeping up with the craziness of each day’s to-do list. Motivation is fleeting. It comes and goes just like the wind. But there is one trick you can use to help breathe some life into your willpower: The Do-Something Principle.

Like the name implies, by taking one small, actionable step, you can help elicit some feelings of accomplishment and inspiration to push you ahead. I loved the way Mark Manson described it: “Action isn’t just the effect of motivation; it’s also the cause of it.” (Read more about Mark here—but be advised that his writing includes expletives.) And it’s him I credit for the Do-Something Principle.

Action Leads to Inspiration, and More

The principle looks a little something like this:

Action -> Inspiration -> Motivation -> New Action

Too many times we think that the order of the operations is inspiration, followed by motivation, which then leads to action. But this rarely happens. And if it does, it’s usually short-lived at best. Sometimes just accomplishing a small task, like saying “I will put my gym shoes on,” can lead to the next step of “Well, I might as well go outside if my shoes are on,” and before you know it you’re out taking a walk and being physically active.

This logic can be applied to other facets of life as well. Say it’s a project at work, like a report you have to write. You know it’s been on your to-do list for a few days, but instead of tackling it you’ve been spending time looking at email or getting sidetracked by other menial tasks. Maybe you’ve even felt a mental roadblock when it comes to that report. This is exactly where you can use the Do-Something Principle. Even just sitting down, opening Microsoft Word on your computer, and throwing a few thoughts down on the page can help spur you on to complete that report.

Anecdotally, when I personally feel like the mountain of tasks in front of me seems a tad overwhelming, saying “Just do something” as a mantra works to keep me grounded. I choose the most important of what’s in front of me and literally just do something to work toward completing that task. I think Brad Stulberg, author and performance coach, described it concisely in saying “Show up. Mood follows action. Just get started. Because it’s really as simple and hard as that.”

Find Motivation Through a First Step

So whatever tasks might lie ahead for you, if you’re having any difficulty getting started or feel a bit of resistance, give the Do-Something Principle a try. Sometimes it’s literally just a matter of taking that first step, even if you aren’t 100% sure of what that step even is. Regardless, Nike wasn’t too far off when they said, “Just Do It.”

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This blog was written by Lauren Zakrajsek, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor, Personal Trainer, and Internship Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: healthy habits motivation goals inspiration just do it behavior modification

The Keto Diet: A Registered Dietitian’s Review

GettyImages-1134020458The “keto diet,” which is short for ketogenic diet, is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet that is similar to the Atkins Diet, and is one of today’s most popular diets. The goal of a low-carb diet is to reduce carbohydrates and replace them with fat. This puts your body into a state of ketosis. When this occurs, your body breaks down fat into ketones for energy. The main idea here is that by starving the body of carbohydrates, you will force it to break down fats, which proponents of the diet suggest results in the best weight-loss results.

There are different versions of the keto diet. Some allow for added carbs around workouts, or some keto days followed by high-carb days, high-protein keto diets, and a standard keto diet of 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbs. It usually includes meat, eggs, cheese, milk, nuts and seeds, oils and fats (like avocado, coconut oil, ghee, butter, and olive oil), vegetables (limited to dark leafy greens and mushrooms, and fruit (berries in moderation). Generally the diet does not include starchy veggies (potato/sweet potato, pumpkin, legumes, etc.), grains (oats, rice, quinoa, corn), or fruits (banana, mango, pineapple, apples, oranges).

Why Is This Diet So Popular?

Keto diets have become increasingly popular in the health-conscious community for a few reasons:

  • Weight loss: How many fad diets have you tried over the past few years that promise hitting your weight-loss goals in just a few weeks or even less than 6 months? Often weight loss is “water weight”: as stored carbohydrates are utilized, water is lost.
  • Reinforcement of getting to eat what we thought to be “bad” foods.
  • No calorie counting—however, many of us create a calorie deficit that results in weight loss without thinking about it when we are no longer eating favorites like pizza, donuts, cookies, chips, etc.

How Healthy Is the Keto Diet?

As a registered dietitian, my goal in nutrition counseling is to help people establish lifelong sustainable habits, and the research points us in a different direction than keto. But first, kudos to anyone who is trying to modify their lifestyle with any diet. Low-carb diets may be useful in the short term for weight loss, but in the long term (longer than a year), there are no documented benefits.

Take a look at the following research on some other healthier eating patterns.

Plant-Based Diets

A study of the eating patterns of more than 15,400 adults in the U.S. and another 432,000 people around the world found that restricted-carbohydrate levels replaced or supplemented by animal-based protein and fat sources could lead to a higher risk of premature death. The study suggests that plant-derived protein and fat such as vegetables, nuts, peanut butter, and whole-grain breads were associated with lower mortality.

Low-Carb Diets

A second study examined the relationship among low-carb diets, heart disease, cancer, and all-cause death in 24,825 people. Compared to those in the high-carbohydrate group, those who ate the lowest carbohydrates had a 32% higher risk of all-cause death over 6 years. Risk of death from heart disease and cancer increased by 51% and 35%, respectively.

The Secrets of the Blue Zones: Living to 100

What do Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Ogliastra Region, Sardinia; Loma Linda, California; and Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica all have in common? These places are called Blue Zones. Blue Zones are isolated areas of the world where researchers have found populations that contain a surprisingly high percentage of centenarians—people who live to age 100+. Not only are these individuals living longer, but they are doing so in phenomenal health without problems like heart disease, obesity, cancer, or diabetes. Here’s what researchers have found when it comes to their diet:

  • Stop eating when your stomach is 80% full to avoid weight gain.
  • Eat the smallest meal of the day in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Eat mostly plants, especially beans. Eat meat rarely, in small portions of 3 to 4 ounces. Blue Zoners eat portions this size just five times a month, on average.
  • Alcohol in moderation (no more than 1-2 glasses of wine per night).

The Conclusion: High-Fiber, Low-Calorie Diets Are Best

There is evidence that ketogenic diets help with conditions like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and epilepsy, but for the majority of the population, I encourage you to eat a well-balanced diet that emphasizes plant foods. Think of cheese, butter, and meat as garnishes to your meal and shift your plate from a high-calorie, high-saturated-fat meal to a high-fiber, lower-calorie, and nutrient-powerhouse meal!

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition weight loss healthy eating protein fiber carbs dietitian ketogenic diet keto

Walk This Way: Why You Should Walk More

GettyImages-1088123908Unless you have been on Mars for the last four or five decades, you have heard, read, and seen the benefits of walking for health and fitness. There is no new hot take on walking; it’s always been a fantastic way to stay healthy and enjoy exercise.

Walking is often undervalued as a great way to lose weight and feel better, mainly due to the perception that walking is not as “sexy” or intense as some of the fitness programs out there. And the popular opinion on the “interwebs” is that if you are not on your back at the end of the training session gasping for air, it’s not effective (with Prancersizing not doing walking any favors in the “sexy” department). But walking can be a great way to get and stay in awesome shape no matter what the Instagram stars may be showing.

Why You Need to Walk More

Let’s start with WHY you should be walking more:

  • It’s FREE and it’s FUNDAMENTAL.
  • A walking workout is customizable and can be done anywhere.
  • Walking improves almost all aspects of fitness: cardio, endurance, balance, core strength…the list goes on and on.
  • You already have the equipment (your body).
  • It’s an easy way to get activity throughout the day.
  • It has been shown to decrease the chances for diabetes, cardio-respiratory disease, heart disease…and this list goes on and on. (Side note: It has also been shown that the best medicine for the top 10 causes of death is EXERCISE.)
  • Can be a solo or group activity.
  • No extra training needed—you already know how to walk.

Those are all pretty good reasons why we should walk more, right? Trust me, there are more reasons than listed above, but we’ll start with those.

How Can You Walk More?

So HOW can you walk more than you currently are? Hopefully you know the common ways: park far away from any building you are entering, take the stairs, walk the dog more than once a day. Here are a few other strategies you may not have thought of:

  • Walk to complete errands.
  • Take public transit and get off two or three stops before the closest stop.
  • Take a shopping cart all the way back to the store or the farthest return—and oh, grab a few on your way because leaving your cart is an epidemic.
  • Fill up your water bottle every hour during your workday, and travel as far as possible to do so.
  • Schedule a 30-minute walk as a training day.
  • Walk mow your lawn, and maybe your neighbors’, too.
  • Practice the Hawaiian wellness habit of searching for beauty.
  • Start your day with a 15–20-minute walk.

How to Ramp Up the Intensity of Your Walking Workout

For those of you who want to ratchet up the intensity on this catch-all, easy-to-use mode of exercise, here are some strategies to rock a great walk:

  • Walk with a purpose: Walk faster and with purpose whenever you are walking (unless it’s a long stroll on a beautiful beach).
  • Inclined walking: Find some hills or put some incline on the treadmill.
  • Weighted carries: Pick up something heavy and walk with it.
  • Rucking (walking with a heavy pack): Same idea as carries, just using a pack.
  • Sled pulls: Strap a sled to yourself and start walking.
  • Hiking: Undulating terrain is a built-in training mode of increasing intensity.

Exercise and fitness does not always need to be extravagant and really should never be complicated (here are some really simple workouts for students). Make walking a bigger part of your training program. No matter the intensity level you choose, just move more!

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: walking weight loss workouts disease prevention wellness mindfulness steps

Happy Playmore: 5 Movement Tips to Stay on the Golf Course Longer

GettyImages-961002976It’s finally that time of year again—time to hit the links and chase a little ball all over a well-manicured green space with the hopes of golf immortality. If you are like me, you have a love/hate relationship with the sport of golf, but I look forward to my weekly round with friends to take on challenging courses and ultimately myself.

All levels of golfers are continually looking for ways to improve something in their game and to get out there more and more to test their skills. But are you taking the necessary steps to make sure you are able to lace up the spikes, strap on the glove, and swing a club anywhere from 70 to 100 times in a 3- to 4-hour span? We can plan practice like crazy on the short game, driver, and flat-stick, but if you can’t move well, or if you have an injury, you won’t be booking that tee time.

As an avid golfer myself, and an aging one at that, I have found some ways to ensure I can enjoy the game that frustrates me so much at times but provides aspects you just can’t get anywhere else. That’s why we play. Here are some tips to help you play longer and, ultimately, better.

Get Screened

Do you know whether you are moving well? Do you know whether you have some mobility issues in key joints for the golf swing, or imbalances? If you do, are you performing specific strategies to help correct and enhance any movement problems you may have? You wouldn’t expect a Corvette to drive at a high performance level if it had square tires, would you? But often we golfers expect to play in the 70s with glaring movement issues and become rather frustrated when we do not. See a certified pro, like all the coaches at NIFS, and get an FMS (Functional Movement Screen) completed to see if there are any movement deficiencies that could be holding you back on the course. You will receive an in-depth report of how you are moving and a bunch of strategies to help make your movement better. Our coaches take the approach of Gray Cook: that when you move well, you will move often; and in this case, moving better means more golf.

Emphasize Mobility

If you want to hit the ball farther, and more often, you have to emphasize mobility exercises and drills in your fitness routine when you are not playing, especially mobility of the thoracic spine. The rotation of the golf swing comes mainly from your ability to “turn” through the T-spine, or upper back area. The larger the turn, the greater the potential swing speed you can create, which can lead to bigger drives and adding yards to all of your clubs. You will receive drills from your coach after completing your FMS, and you can also read more on the importance of T-spine mobility from experts like Greg Rose and others at the Titleist Performance Institute. In most if not all athletic environments (life being one of those), it truly has to start with mobility. The more mobility you have, the more potential you can unleash.

Train the Frontal and Transverse Plane

Working in a fitness facility I witness on a daily basis a lack of training emphasis on the frontal and transverse planes of motion. We are a pretty straightforward kind of fitness planet, and not in a good way. And many times I field questions about an injury that happened on the golf course from individuals who have never trained outside of walking in a straight line, or straight presses and pulls. They are confused that they move explosively in a plane of motion they never train and somehow get hurt. The golf swing happens in the frontal and transverse planes of motion, so you need to train with movements that challenge you in those planes. Countless exercises and drills can get you out of the sagittal plane (forward and back), and prepare and load your body to take on a big swing as well as provide the endurance to perform many swings. Here are a few of the classics:

Warm Up Properly

This really should go without saying, yet I have to: WARM UP BEFORE YOU PLAY! Racing to the course, pulling the bag out of the trunk, stepping to the first tee, and hitting the big dog after a few practice swings is a sure-fire way to at best play poorly, and at worst suffer a big injury that takes you out for the season. Take the time to show up a little earlier and warm-up properly. As I typically do, I reference the experts. I learned this quick and effective warmup from Jason Glass that I use every time. If you don’t dig this one, that’s fine; just do something to prepare your body to perform for that 3- to 4-hour round of golf.

RICE After the Round

If you don’t know by now, RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. You don’t have to suffer a trauma to enlist and perform this concept. Ice can go a long way in the recovery process, and that is the goal here, to recover quickly and get back on the course. You don’t think the pros finish up, go get some dinner, and hit the rack, do you? No way! They recover properly so they can swing well every time they step on the course. Take time to perform a light stretch after a round, jump in the hot tub, or ice down sore muscles after you are done enjoying this great sport. It will get you back out quicker and you will be playing longer.

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS injury prevention golf recovery mobility movement functional movement screen

The Nutritional Benefits of Eating Breakfast

GettyImages-155392951Start your day off right by nailing breakfast with a healthy, nutrient-rich meal. Breakfast helps kickstart your metabolism and burn more calories throughout the day. Eating breakfast tells your body there are plenty of calories to be had throughout the day. When you skip breakfast, the message is clear: conserve calories rather than burn them. Those who skip breakfast may eat fewer calories but still tend to have higher BMI.

Other studies have found more benefits to breakfast, including:

  • Consuming less fat.
  • Meeting fruit and veggie recommendations.
  • Higher daily calcium intake.
  • Higher daily fiber intake.
  • Better memory and improved attention span.

Skipping breakfast leads to:

  • Higher likelihood of being overweight.
  • Less likely to meet recommendations for fruit and veggie consumption.
  • More likely to consume unhealthy snacks.

So, a Pop-Tart a Day Will Mean Improved Health?

Not quite! Try to choose a breakfast that is unrefined/unprocessed and moderate in calories, high in fiber (5 grams or more), nutrient-dense, and has some protein (about 10–15 grams to help with keeping you full).

A sugary breakfast option like Pop-Tarts, donuts, or Cinnamon Toast Crunch lacks the fiber to keep you full throughout the morning and can pack a punch in terms of calories. Have you checked the serving size on the back of a cereal box? Unfortunately, people usually go way over that ¾ cup recommendation, and a bowl of cereal can sometimes max out at roughly 2,000 calories. A 16-oz. bowl holds about 6.5 times the serving size of Frosted Flakes. Add the milk and that can get you even closer to 2,800 calories! This can equate to relatively quick weight gain, especially if you find you are hungry again by 10am.

Some Good Breakfast Options

So what are some good choices for breakfast?

  • Oatmeal with fresh fruit and nuts
  • Whole-grain toast with avocado
  • Fruit smoothie with protein powder or nut butter
  • Egg scramble (or try tofu!) loaded with veggies
  • Whole-grain bagel with nut butter and slices of banana
  • Greek yogurt with fruit
  • Piece of fruit and handful of almonds
  • Apple slices with peanut butter
  • Overnight oats
  • High-fiber cereal with fruit and low-fat milk or plant milk (try Barbara’s, Nature’s Path, or Kashi)
  • KIND Bars, GoMacro bars, RXBars (high protein, low sugar)

Here are a few recipes for healthy breakfasts you can make quickly and take with you on a busy morning.

Breakfast Is on NIFS, June 25 and 27!

Check out our breakfast table in the Fitness Center hallway to sample a few of these breakfast ideas on June 25th and 27th from 11am to 1pm!

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition calories breakfast weight management fiber energy

Tips for Making Healthy Choices in the Face of Decision Fatigue

GettyImages-506139898It’s the end of the day. There was a string of meetings to attend, a pile of emails to answer, an argumentative colleague to work with, maybe even kids yelling for pizza when you had chicken planned for dinner instead. By the time you get home, you’ve already made a plethora of decisions, from how to approach a problem at work to what shoes to wear on your way out the door. You told yourself you would exercise when you got home, but now the couch looks a lot more enticing. All those decisions you made have taken a biological toll on your motivation and self-control, whether you realize it or not.

Decision fatigue, or the deteriorating quality of decisions after making numerous previous choices, happens to even the most rational and strong-willed of us. The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder it is to exert self-control and make better decisions later. So no, your choice to binge-watch Game of Thrones with a pint of ice cream in hand after a particularly decision-heavy day isn’t necessarily because you lack motivation or willpower. Luckily, there are a few tips and tricks that you can employ to hack decision fatigue and help boost your willpower.

Here are four ways you can help combat decision fatigue in your day.

Make Repeated-Daily Decisions the Night Before

Some of the most draining decisions are the ones that you make again, and again, and again. Blocking off time the night before can save tons of mental energy the following day. It’s the outfit you’re wearing to work tomorrow, the lunch you will eat, and even which KCup to choose for your morning buzz (very crucial, I know). All of these take less than a few minutes to decide and even complete, so tackle them the night before to set yourself up for success tomorrow.

Attack the Most Important Task First

Willpower is somewhat like any muscle in your body: it fatigues with use. The brain will start to look for shortcuts if decisions pile up. Namely, it will either a) become reckless and impulsive (hello bag of chips for lunch), or it will b) become the energy saver and do nothing (where my fellow procrastinators at?). If you have something that you are trying to prioritize and work on, put your best foot forward and attack it first while you have ample attention and energy to do so. Maybe it’s improving your body composition, maybe it’s starting a side business, maybe it’s beginning a daily mindfulness habit. Whatever it may be, start your day by working on the most important thing in your life.

Schedule Your Success: Don’t Leave It to Chance

We all have great intentions when we start the day. But its not enough to hope that you’ll have the energy to go to the gym after work. Or that you’ll be disciplined enough to choose a serving of vegetables over that nighttime Nutella binge (can you tell I’m a bit hungry writing this?). Making ourselves a schedule takes out the decision-making process and eliminates another opportunity for our brain to check out and give in to impulses. If making exercise a habit is a priority for you, physically put it on your calendar and weekly agenda. Now hoping that you’ll have the willpower when you leave work won’t be the problem; you’ll just know that NIFS is where you’ll be heading on Tuesdays at 5:30pm.

Eat Something First if You Have to Make Good Decisions Later

In a study by Danziger et al. (2011) published by the National Academy of Sciences, researchers analyzed over 1,100 judicial rulings for parole hearings over a 10-month period. Judges had a favorable ruling to start the day 65% of the time. As the day progressed, and more decisions were made, that percentage gradually dropped to nearly zero. The only exception? When the judges returned from lunch break, a ruling’s favorability jumped back up to the same 65%. Moral of the story? If you have an important decision to be made, but you realize that it won’t be approached until later, try eating a small snack beforehand. Being hangry can make it easier to be impulsive. So while you should try to tackle the most important tasks and decisions first, it might not always be realistic or possible to do so. Have that healthy snack at the ready (or packed the night before) if you know that your day calls for willpower later.

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The average person makes more than 30,000 decisions daily. And the more decisions that we make, the more difficult subsequent choices become. Try a few of these techniques to help streamline your day and keep your willpower intact and refreshed going forward.

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This blog was written by Lauren Zakrajsek, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: healthy habits healthy eating healthy lifestyle healthy living decision-making