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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Five Tips for Maintaining Your Health and Fitness over the Holidays

GettyImages-1406790902With the holidays coming up, it can be easy to get caught up in the busyness of it all. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, we are bombarded with festive meals, holiday parties, sweet treats, and family gatherings that simply interrupt our normal routine. The holiday season is one of the most difficult times to stay motivated to be healthy. Not to mention the fact that it is several degrees cooler and I would rather hibernate than go out to the gym. Plus, many of us travel to visit family and friends and we are just not close to our gym.

I know that I personally struggle with all of these things, especially because the food around the holiday time is absolutely my favorite. To really get myself into the right mindset, I follow these five tips to make sure I can keep my health and fitness at the level I want it to be at.

1. Maintain the right mindset.

Staying motivated won’t be possible unless you start out with the right mindset. Go into the holiday season determined and dedicated. Do not make excuses when it comes to working out. Make sure that it is really a priority for you and something that is attainable.

2. Make a schedule.

Making a plan and workout schedule ahead of time will make it a lot more difficult to make excuses when the time comes. If you are prepared, you are more likely to get it done. Take a look at your schedule and write down the times that you will be able to get in your workout session.

3. Make it a family activity.

If you are struggling to find the time to balance working out and also spending time with your family, make getting exercise a family activity. For example, my family goes out and walks together, takes fun exercise classes together, and even runs fun holiday-themed 5Ks together. Not only are we working out, but we are making memories as well.

4. Switch up your normal workout.

You can add new exercises to keep it new and exciting. You are less likely to get bored with something that you are working on improving. You can also include more HIIT workouts that will help you achieve a lot in a short amount of time.

5. Know that you don’t always need a gym.

During the holidays, you are more than likely going to be traveling a lot and may not be by a gym. Doing body-weight exercises or using at-home items to lift can be a useful temporary solution when you are away. Try some of these exercises and workouts.

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Even though it's the season of giving, be sure to not give yourself a hard time. Some days a workout just won’t happen, and you may find yourself consuming more calories. We have to remember to be gracious to our minds and our bodies. Being too strict on yourself can cause you to burn out and even create unhealthy habits. Make sure you understand your balance so that you can live your best life.

Happy Holidays and Happy Fitness!

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This blog was written by Emily Lesich, NIFS Health Fitness Specialist. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: motivation holidays Thanksgiving traveling new year's mindset christmas workout plan health and fitness family

Saving Money on Groceries While Eating Well

GettyImages-517974394With inflation at a 40-year high and grocery costs up close to 11% compared to 2021, saving money at the store has become a priority for many. However, when trying to save money at the store, many individuals cut back on the pricier yet healthier items, such as fruits, vegetables, and lean protein sources. But you don’t have to do that! Here are some tips and tricks for maintaining a healthy diet while shopping smart and saving money at the store.

  • Have a grocery store game plan. Make a list of the meals and snacks you plan to eat throughout the week and the foods you will need to make them. Sticking to this list will help prevent you from buying things you do not need, which often results in wasted food and money.
  • Join your store's loyalty or rewards program. Often these programs are free and automatically apply savings at checkout, requiring minimal effort from you.
  • Buy “in-season” and “local” fruits and vegetables when possible. Fruits and vegetables that are local or in season are typically cheaper to produce and ship, resulting in a lower price for the consumer compared to hard-to-find or out-of-season produce. See what produce is currently in season at the USDA website.
  • Buy frozen. If you have freezer space available, purchase frozen fruits and vegetables without added salt or sauces. Typically frozen fruits and vegetables are just as healthy as fresh and are a fraction of the cost.
  • Buy canned fruits and vegetables. When purchasing fruits, try to buy those that are packaged in 100% fruit juice. When purchasing vegetables, look for those that have “no salt added” listed on the label, or simply rinse prior to preparing/cooking to help wash off some of the salt added for preservation.
  • Grow your own! Grow your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs to cut back on packaging costs.
  • Buy fresh. Check the “sell by” or “best by” date to ensure you are buying the freshest items.
  • Compare your options. Compare and contrast different sizes and brands to find the most cost-effective option. Looking at the “price per unit” can help you find the best deal.
  • Buy in bulk. When you know a certain food or drink will get used, buy in bulk or purchase value- or family-sized items. For produce and meat, anything that isn’t used can be frozen for later use.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: healthy eating whole foods fruits and vegetables grocery shopping saving money frozen food

What’s Old Is New: Change Up Your Workouts with the Same Exercises

GettyImages-505776960We’ve all heard that using the same workout program for a long duration is not the most effective way to train. At some point in everyone’s training life, they get into a program or workout routine that just seems to be perfect. It may be time-efficient and enjoyable, and you may see all of the improvements you set out to achieve when you started. These workout programs may last 4, 8, or 12 weeks, but they are always the hardest to switch up even if your improvements (or “gainz”) have stalled.

Balancing the Need for Variety with Favorite Exercises

Exercise variety is great. I recommend switching up different variations of exercises from training cycle to training cycle; I do realize, however, that some of those foundational exercises that you like to perform might always be present.

Most of us have our favorite exercises that are staples in any program that we use. Those favorite exercises also tend to be coupled with rep schemes (sets, reps, rest periods) that we feel like help us get the most out of our time in the gym. It’s almost like we have our default setting on what we are going to do and run with it. But what if you didn’t want to switch up any of the exercises? How could you build an entirely new workout with the exercises you have been doing from the previous block or training cycle?

A Sample Workout with Variations

The answer is actually pretty simple. You can alter the variables of the program to drastically change the look, feel, and performance of any workout. How do you do it? Take a look at the sample full-body workout below and the following two blocks with the same exercises.

Weeks 1–4

  • Front Squat 4x6 (2-minute rest between sets)
  • TRX Row 4x15 (1-minute rest)
  • Dumbbell Bench Press 4x12 (2-minute rest)
  • Kettlebell Lateral Lunge 3x8/leg (1-minute rest)
  • Lat Pulldown 3x15 (1-minute rest)

Weeks 4–8

  • Front Squat 3x12 (30-second rest between sets)
  • TRX Row 3x25 (30-second rest)
  • Dumbbell Bench Press 3x20 (30-second rest)
  • Kettlebell Lateral Lunge 3x15/leg (30-second rest)
  • Lat Pulldown 3x15 (30-second rest)

Weeks 9–12

  • Front Squat 5x3 (3-minute rest between sets)
  • TRX Row 5x8 (1.5-minute rest)
  • Dumbbell Bench Press 4x6 (2-minute rest)
  • Kettlebell Lateral Lunge 4x3/leg (1.5-minute rest)
  • Lat Pulldown 4x10 (1.5-minute rest)

For each four-week block, I made small adjustments to each of the exercise “variables.” Each of these blocks will give you an entirely different feel than the preceding block. By changing sets, reps, and rest periods, you are altering the stressors on the body. You are also changing what the goal for your cycle may be. Want to work on pure strength? Use low reps, lots of sets, and big rest periods. Muscular endurance? Try lots of reps and little rest.

Small Changes Equal Big Progress

Little adjustments can make big changes in your progress in the gym. The same “old” can now be the same “new.”

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This blog was written by Alex Soller, Athletic Performance Coach, and NIFS trainer. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: gainz total-body workouts variety structuring workouts training program

Brains and Brawn: Exercise Body and Mind to Delay Alzheimer’s Dementia

November is national Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Alzheimer’s disease, which has devastating effects on the brain’s cognitive functions, leads to diminished quality of life. Research continues on how to stave off these effects, but there is currently no known cure, leaving coping devices and techniques as essential to living. 

GettyImages-1089840096Links Between Physical Exercise and Brain Health

Can exercise and fitness help alleviate the effects of Alzheimer's disease and delay the onset of dementia? There is still little data to show that exercise is the cure, but there are plenty of links to improved brain function as a result of exercise. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic weigh in on the topic and how exercise is beneficial in more ways than we know.

Studies show that people who are physically active are less likely to experience a decline in their mental function, have a lowered risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, and possibly have improved thinking among people with vascular cognitive impairment.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, with exercise comes improved blood circulation throughout the body, including the brain, leading to improvement in overall health.

Exercise every day. Doing something is better than doing nothing at all. It is recommended that older adults get 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity cardiovascular activity (ACSM), some strength training to help maintain muscular strength and functionality, and a competent harmony of flexibility and balance.

Give Your Brain a Workout

It’s important to exercise your brain as well as your body. Here are some ideas to include in your daily workout regimen. As with physical exercise, developing healthy habits and daily consistency are keys to success. Much like physical exercise, one workout will not give you six-pack abs.

Exercise your brain every day. Try to learn something new (such as a new language or an instrument); do problem-solving puzzles, memory games, and crosswords; and continue to read, write, and learn in a variety of ways (including video games!) (WebMd.com).

Challenge Your Body and Your Brain

The similarities between physical exercise and brain exercises might not seem obvious, but with practice and commitment, the results of both become noticeable. With any workout program, you will want to find a healthy starting point. The NIFS staff has the tools and knowledge to ensure that your physical workout is tailored to your needs and specific to your goals. Although we can encourage you on your brain fitness quest, the real workouts will begin and end when you get up in the morning and go to bed at night, and will continue for the rest of your life. Make it a priority to challenge your brain.

Until next time, muscleheads rejoice and evolve!

This blog was written by Thomas Livengood and posted in loving memory of him and all the great blogs he wrote for NIFS over the years. This was his last blog contribution and we honor him in posting it.

Topics: Thomas' Corner brain fitness dementia Alzheimer's exercise and brain health brain health