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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Melatonin and Metabolism: How Sleep Affects Your Health

GettyImages-681814096One of the most critical things we do for our health is sleep. Without sufficient sleep, we risk impairing cognitive function, developing chronic diseases and mental disorders, and even an early death.

There’s a lot about sleep that remains a mystery to science, but what is known is that it plays a major role in consolidating memories, cleaning metabolites from the brain, and allowing the nervous, skeletal, and muscular systems to repair themselves. Good sleep is essential for our bodies to thrive, but 30 percent of employed adults have reported 6 or less hours of sleep per night, when the recommended amount is between 7 and 9 hours. Hormones directly involved in the sleep cycle also play a critical role in health, so it’s important to maintain a steady sleep schedule to prevent these hormones from becoming imbalanced. One of the hormones that plays a role in sleep is melatonin, and this blog will focus on its effects on sleep as well as metabolism.

The Physiology of Melatonin

The physiology of melatonin is a complex subject, and research to discover its mechanisms and effects is ongoing. However, I will explain some of the things we know to be true about melatonin and why it may be important for you.

Melatonin is a hormone made in the pineal gland when it gets dark outside. When melatonin levels increase in the bloodstream, you begin to feel less alert and more sleepy. Although a major function of melatonin is to encourage sleep, it has a huge impact on metabolism. Some of the functions are these:

  • Regulates energy expenditure.
  • Potentiates various actions of insulin.
  • Regulates glycemia (blood glucose) and lipidemia (blood lipids).
  • Manages circadian synchronization of insulin secretion, synthesis, and action; hepatic (liver) metabolism; white adipose tissue metabolism; and skeletal muscle metabolism.
  • Regulates energy flow to and from storages.

That’s a lot of responsibility for one hormone. Whereas a lot of these functions are significant, what’s most important to understand is that melatonin balances energy expenditure by controlling the flow between energy stores. It has a direct impact on the browning of white adipose tissue, which is a way for the body to regulate body weight. This works because the function of brown adipose tissue is heat production by burning large amounts of calories. It also plays a major role in regulating glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. When melatonin levels are normal, all of these essential functions can be carried out.

Chronodisruption

Chronodisruption is what occurs when melatonin production is impaired. This can be due to illumination such as lights turned on inside when it’s nighttime, working the night shift, or aging. All of the functions listed above become disrupted and no longer work efficiently. This disorganization can lead to metabolic diseases and obesity.

The best thing to do if you think you may be experiencing chronodisruption is to talk to a doctor. They may encourage you to try melatonin-replacement therapy, because there have been some successes in various research studies, or help you find a healthier sleeping routine.

Top Takeaways About Sleep and Weight Management

Melatonin is a huge contributor to overall health and metabolism. If disrupted, your whole body can feel the consequences. It might seem like the most important thing to do for your health is healthy eating and exercise, but sleep may be at the top of the list. Without adequate sleep, our hormones lose balance, our mental capacity is reduced, and our overall health is negatively impacted.

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This blog was written by Hannah Peters, BS, CPT, Health Fitness Instructor. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: metabolism weight management sleep obesity blood sugar hormones

The Functional Movement Screen Exercises in Depth

FMS-NewIn my last blog I briefly described the importance of the Functional Movement Screen to determine where one should begin with their workout program. The score that an individual receives determines whether they are ready for certain movements. In this blog I will go more in depth about the actual purpose of each test of the FMS, what the scores mean, and the reliability of the FMS.

The Purpose of the FMS

The FMS was created to measure motor control of movement patterns, quickly identify pain or limitations that need to be addressed, and to set a baseline for movement competency within the body. Being able to determine asymmetries in the body will help the tester figure out which movement has the greatest deficiency and which movement needs the most help. The FMS consists of seven movement patterns that are performed without warmup. The reason is that we want to see what a person’s movement capacity is at its natural state.

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The Exercises That Are Part of the FMS

Here is more detail on each of the exercises that are part of this screening:

  • Deep Squat: This test shows us the most about how a person moves. The reason is that it allows us to see total extremity mobility, postural control, and pelvic and core stability. If you think about it, everyone at some time in the day performs a squat, whether that is sitting down, playing sports, picking up something off the ground, and so on. When the dowel is overhead, this requires mobility and stability of the shoulders, and the pelvis must provide stability and control while performing the squatting motion.
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    Hurdle Step: This test demonstrates how well someone is able to walk (locomotion) as well as accelerate. The hurdle step is a great assessment to determine any kind of compensation the body performs while you take a step forward. This movement also lets us know how well a person is able to stabilize and control oneself while in a single-leg stance. If pelvic and core control is lacking with this, the person will not be able to stabilize themselves properly and will most likely begin to shift too much or lose alignment.
  • Inline Lunge: This test helps demonstrate the ability that one has to decelerate. This is important because we as humans need to be able to decelerate every day, whether that be in sports or just daily living activities. It also allows the tester to observe the rotational and lateral movement capacity of someone. Pelvic and core control and stability is extremely important to be able to perform this movement properly. Since this test requires the person to be in a split stance, the tester can also see how well a person is able to get into hip, knee, and ankle flexion when lunging down and determine whether there is a mobility or stability issue.
  • Shoulder Mobility: This test helps show the relationship between the scapular-thoracic region, thoracic spine, and rib cage. A person with good thoracic extension typically does well on this test. One side should demonstrate internal rotation and extension and adduction, and the other side should demonstrate external rotation, flexion, and abduction.
  • Active Straight-Leg Raise: This test helps demonstrate many things, even though it might seem very basic. With the leg that is coming up, we typically want to see a good range of hip flexion. On the leg that stays down, we typically look for how good the range of hip extension is. Another variable that I like to look at is how well their core stability is. If they are not able to keep their back flat on the floor, this lets me know that the person is not able to own that position and needs help with core stability.
  • Trunk Stability Push-up: This test often gets mistaken as being an assessment for upper-body strength. This is not the case, though. The actual purpose of this assessment is to measure the stability of the core. If the spine or hips move during the push-up movement, this is usually an indication of other muscles compensating for the lack of core stability.
  • Rotary Stability: This tests for rotary stability in multiple planes. Core, pelvis, and shoulder girdle stability are what is being assessed. This also allows us to measure the ability of a person to crawl. Being able to demonstrate proper weight shift in the transverse plane and also coordination during the stabilization and mobility of this movement will help determine whether a person is ready for more complex movements.

FMS Scoring

I will keep this section short and sweet and explain the basic fundamental purpose of the scoring and what each number means. The FMS scoring ranges from 0–3, so there are 4 possible scores that a person can get. A 0 indicates that there was pain during the movement. A score of 1 usually indicates that the person was not able to complete the full movement properly or was not able to get into the correct position to execute the movement. A score of 2 indicates that the person was able to complete the movement but had to compensate somehow to actually execute it. A score of 3 indicates the movement is optimal and no compensations were detected.

Reliability of the Test

Many research studies have been done to determine the reliability of the FMS in recent years. The main findings that have been discovered are that the FMS can accurately identify people with a higher chance of an injury. The three groups at a higher risk are professional football players, male marine officer candidates, and female collegiate basketball, soccer, and volleyball players.

People always ask me what score determines an elevated risk for injury on the FMS. What most studies suggest is that a score of 14 or lower gives a person a 1.5 times higher risk for injury than a person who gets a score higher than 14. This does not mean that if you score lower than a 14, you should be frightened; again, most studies done are with a specific population (stated above). More studies are needed on the general population, but what is certain is that the FMS is a great tool for personal trainers, athletic trainers, physical therapists, and strength and conditioning coaches to use on their populations to get a better understanding of how well a person moves.

If you are interested in completing an FMS screening at NIFS, click here for more information.

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This blog was written by Pedro Mendez, MS, CSCS, Strength and Conditioning Coach for IUPUI and Health Fitness Instructor for NIFS.

Topics: NIFS injury prevention pain exercises functional movement assessments movement functional movement screen

Productivity Hacks: Action vs. Motion—Be Productive Rather Than Busy

GettyImages-534040654How many times have you looked back at a day and thought, “Man, I wish I would’ve been more productive,” while your to-do list seems to grow and grow. Or maybe you feel like you were crossing a lot of things off the list, but no meaningful work was actually accomplished? In my experience, it’s almost a weekly occurrence. I feel like I’m flying around at work, checking off boxes. But then I get to the end of my day, scan back through, and realize that I didn’t actually work on any of the big jobs that I had originally intended. Its days like these that made me want to begin a blog series that attacks the idea of productivity: what it actually is, where our pitfalls lie, and how we can improve on it to get more out of each day.

So What Is Productivity?

In the words of the eloquent Julie Andrews, let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. What the heck is productivity? We throw around the term all the time. But what it actually entails is the efficiency a person has when it comes to completing a task. It actually has nothing to do with how many tasks you get done in a day. And I think that’s where many of us miss the boat a little bit. We get so caught up in the trap of being in motion and thinking that we’re being productive as a result. Being busy is not being productive. If anything, sometimes it detracts from it. And I get it; sometimes our jobs require little tasks like answering emails, structuring your schedule, and other daily logistical to-do’s. But they shouldn’t be the things taking up the bulk of your working hours.

Taking Action: Process Goals

This leads into the concept of taking action versus just being in motion. Taking action is the direct line to achieving a result. Sometimes in the biz, we can even describe this as a process goal. It’s a physical step you’re taking toward accomplishing a task or goal. For example, if you need to write a report for work (or in my case, write this post), an action would be to physically sit down and start hammering out the intro—put pen to paper. With that same example, being in motion would look more like reading various articles, doing excessive research because you feel you’re not ready to start, or maybe even doing something completely unrelated like immediately checking emails when you sit down in your office.

This same concept of action versus motion can be seen outside of work in goal setting, too. Let’s say you want to make weightlifting part of your exercise routine. You want to get stronger and healthier, and maybe even train for a powerlifting meet! Being in motion would be to start reading books about training, reading articles written by coaches, or setting up a physical meeting with a coach to talk about where to start. Now, some of these are steps that can absolutely be taken along the way to being productive in the form of starting a resistance training plan. But that’s the thing; they shouldn’t be the only thing you’re doing. Sooner or later, you’ll need to jump in, take action, and start lifting. Getting too preoccupied in the planning stages, waiting until you feel ready, often stalls you to the point of not actually starting in the first place. Sometimes you’ll never truly feel ready. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start. Don’t delay; choose action over motion when push comes to shove.

How You Can Take Action Now

Here are some tips for getting started.

  • The smaller the task, the sooner the start. Don’t get caught in the storm of overplanning prior to starting.
  • If it’s a big project, set up meetings and set some deadlines. Yes, planning will absolutely be a part in larger tasks. Break it up piecemeal style and have the action take the form of you accomplishing a critical branch of the project. You should also have a clear-cut vision of what your next step entails.
  • When in doubt, just get started. Get started even if it’s not perfect—in fact, especially if it’s not perfect.

So whether it’s a task on the docket at work, or a personal goal you have set for yourself, you can start to become aware of when you’re stuck in the endless loop of motion. For some projects, especially bigger ones, there will be necessary checkpoints and planning along the way that would be considered motion. But don’t let that take over and be the only thing that’s happening. Take action. Get started. And in the words of legendary basketball coach John Wooden, “Never mistake activity for achievement.”

Be on the lookout for the next installment of the productivity series where I’ll tackle the topic of the Ivy Lee Method: how to set yourself up for success the following day!

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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: productivity goals wellness take action be productive hacks Productivity Hacks

STRENGTH: 6 Expert Weightlifting Tips to Be Stronger Than Ever

9power.jpgStrength. We all want it, and many of us will go to great lengths to obtain it. Strength and the ability to be strong will find its way into all of our lives, from weightlifting in the gym to all the activities of daily living (ADLs). It was once explained to me that you should picture your absolute strength as a bucket; the bigger the bucket (the stronger you are), the more things you can put into the bucket. Aspects of health and fitness such as mobility, endurance, agility, and power can all be better developed and improved with the presence of strength. To put it simply: be strong—be better.

Of course you can google “how to get strong,” and you will find no shortage of philosophies and program theories to wade through to answer that question. Some may actually be safe and useful, but who can you trust these days? I tend to learn from those who have “been there and done that” and continue to do it because of a high success rate of most-wanted outcomes.

Get Strong Tips from Dan John

Dan John is one of the top fitness coaches, and I never miss a chance to hear him speak or read his weekly newsletters. I have learned so much from reading his materials and implementing his principles into my training and the training of others. Dan will be the first to tell you that he continues to learn from people like Pavel Tsatsouline and many others. Dan believes his tips are an “easy” way to get strong.

Following are six of his expert tips that I have integrated into my training (and the training of those I work with).

  • Lift heavy. This seems obvious, but it really is where it all begins. If you lift heavy weights to get strong, you have to challenge the system and force it to adapt. Without adaption, there will be no gain.
  • Perform the fundamental human movements. There are some variances in what is believed to be fundamental, depending on who you talk to. But I believe those movements are Squat, Hinge, Push, Pull, and Carry.
  • Keep sets and reps low. I love Dan’s “Power of 10” rule: never go over 10 total reps for any exercise. For example, 2x5, 5x2, 3x3, 6 singles, 5, 3 and 2.
  • Stop your set and workout before fatigue. Stay fresh and leave some energy for the next training session.
  • Don’t even struggle. Choose the proper load so that you can finish each rep with integrity, not sideways and crooked.
  • Never miss a rep. Choosing a load that you are 100% confident you can make can be hard for some. Most of us want to challenge the limits with every rep and set. Refrain from that for true gains.

A Challenge to Prepare for the Upcoming Powerlifting Competition

Following these tips, from time to time I will cycle in my training what Dan refers to as the 40-Workout Strength Challenge. With the NIFS 6th Annual Powerlifting Competition coming up on November 9th, I wanted to share a program that I learned from Dan that added 10 pounds to my bench, 30 pounds to my squat, and 50 to my deadlift. Dan also has seen a few PRs fall in both throwing and weightlifting competitions. I am a big believer in the program’s concepts and simplicity. We are very good at overcomplicating things when it is not necessary. Here you work on fundamental movements all the time, and you make sure you hit every rep. This could be a great challenge for you leading into the competition; however, just like anything else, it might not work for everyone. Here’s the setup:

  1. Pick one exercise from the fundamental human movements described above. If competing in November is your goal, I would suggest a back squat, bench press, and deadlift. Add in a chinup and a farmer’s carry and you are good to go.
  2. Perform these exercises for the first 10 workouts every training session with varying sets and reps.
  3. Never miss a rep, and if the weight feels light, add more weight.
  4. After the first 10 workouts you can repeat them 3 additional times or make small changes to the movements every two weeks (for example, change to an incline bench, front squat, rack pulls, barbell bent-over rows, and racked carry). There are far too many examples of exercises and combinations to list here; I would suggest scheduling a personal program session with a NIFS instructor to help you out.

Here is how I set up my challenge that may help you develop yours. I can’t stress enough that this is what worked for me. It may not work for you, but it could be well worth the try.
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I found that after completing this 40-workout challenge, not only did I add pounds to my big lifts, but many of the other tasks in my life became easier. The other aspect of this challenge I really, really liked was that due to its simplicity, I can turn my brain down a bit and just lift. It provided that escape from our day-to-day tasks that I think we all need from time to time.

Registration is now open for NIFS 6th annual Powerlifting Competition. Get registered today online or at the service desk.

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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 weightlifting strength powerlifting