NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Emily Lesich

Recent Posts by Emily Lesich:

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

Tips for Exercising with Autoimmune Disease

GettyImages-852401728Autoimmune diseases are a family of more than 80 chronic illnesses. According to the National Institutes of Health, up to 23.5 million Americans, or more than 7 percent of the population, suffer from an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune disorders arise when the body’s immune system, which is meant to protect you from disease and infection, mistakenly attacks healthy cells as if they were invading a virus or bacteria. Autoimmune diseases include arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s Disease, Graves’ disease, lupus, Sjögren’s syndrome, and multiple sclerosis. Some other illnesses that commonly affect women such as Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (although not classified as autoimmune diseases) have similar symptoms including fatigue and chronic pain. Common symptoms of autoimmune diseases include chronic joint or muscle pain, extreme fatigue, difficulty sleeping, weakness, nausea, headache, and depression.

Staying Active Is Important

Many people with an autoimmune disease go through periods of being symptom-free, and then have sudden onset of severe symptoms called flares. It’s understandable that when you’re not feeling well, you may avoid exercise because it’s difficult to find the motivation and energy to be active. For many people with autoimmune disorders, however, moderate low-impact exercise and physical activity can be of tremendous benefit to their quality of life. Keeping active is especially important when you have an autoimmune disease for several reasons: exercise boosts physical energy; endorphin production is a natural painkiller; exercise can help reduce inflammation throughout the body; and exercise also helps combat the depression and anxiety that also often accompany this type of illness.

Exercise Tips for People with Autoimmune Disease

Here are some tips for exercising when you have an autoimmune illness:

  1. Go at your own pace and figure out what works for you. Not everyone’s experience of autoimmune disease symptoms is the same. Start slowly with your workouts and work your way up to more challenging ones. Some days will be harder than others—adjust your workout accordingly. If you miss a day because of a flare, don’t beat yourself up about it, just make sure you get back to the gym as soon as you can.
  2. Have good support systems. Talk to your health care providers about your plans to exercise and ask for their input. Make an appointment at your gym to have a fitness assessment with a personal trainer. You may also find it fun and motivating to have a fitness buddy other than your trainer, someone you can attend group classes with, or even just meet a designated time to hit the cardio machines or do weights together.
  3. Keep a journal of your daily activities, including when you exercise, the activities you did, and what you ate. If you find yourself overly exerted, you will probably see patterns start to emerge when you have the most or least amount of energy. Take these into consideration and adjust your routine to fit you best.
  4. Give your body the fuel it needs to succeed. You may even want to consider an anti-inflammatory diet. Many autoimmune disorders create inflammation in the body, which leads to muscle and joint pain, as well as fatigue. You can consult with a nutritionist to see whether there are diet changes you can make to help you be successful.
  5. Rest! Your body may have a hard time adjusting to the workload you are putting it through. Allow yourself to get adequate rest. Remember, this is a lifelong condition that requires lifelong attention.

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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: staying active low-impact exercise as medicine quality of life chronic disease autoimmune disease

Making Time for Fitness During the School Year

GettyImages-1352437839With the new school year upon us, it’s time to start thinking about “back to school” fitness. Summer was a time for adventure, vacation, trying new foods, and so much more. Although all that stuff is fun, it can get us out of a routine. As a newly graduated college student, I know how much a routine helped me stay on track for my classes. One thing I always included was exercise. Having consistent workouts is the first step toward a disciplined life.

Studies show that working out consistently actually helps you stay with your schedule. When you plan specific times to exercise, you become more committed, and you can track your progress. When you see that you can stick to a workout schedule and are successful at it, you can start to change your view on other tasks in your life. When one area of your life becomes more manageable, it is easier to do the same with other aspects of your life.

Now you might be asking yourself, “Where do I even start?” Here are a couple of easy steps to making sure you create a workout routine that is a perfect fit for your schedule.

  1. Make fitness a priority: If fitness is important for you, you need to make time for it. Your health should always be your number-one priority. And as a wise person once said, “If you don’t make time for your health, you will make time for your illness." If working out is not one of your top priorities, it will not happen. If you really want to get the most out of it, you need to prioritize it.
  2. Be realistic: The key is to consistently do your best. Make sure you don’t sign up for too much. If you keep missing classes or training sessions because your schedule is too crazy, you’re going to get really discouraged when you don’t see the results you want. When starting a workout routine, start small. At NIFS we offer free classes to members throughout the week at different times (see the schedule here). This is a great way to get started, especially if you don’t know exactly where to start.
  3. Make goals: Making goals is one of the best ways to start your workout routine. If you know what you are working toward, you’re going to work harder to get it. Make sure these goals are SMART. This means that they are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. This will help you track your progress and really see successful results.
  4. Time it right: Make sure you go to the gym at a time that is good for you. If you have a lot of morning classes, go in the afternoon or evening or vice versa. If you're more of a morning person, make sure you get up early in the morning and work out. If you know you have a lot of schoolwork, only work out for 30 minutes. When it comes to timing everything, make sure you come up with a good plan and discern when is the best time for you.
  5. Short workouts count, too: Everyone is busy and sometimes crazy schedules are what stop people from working out. People think that they need to train for 60 to 90 minutes straight or else they won’t see any results. Research shows that 10 to 15 minutes of training can be beneficial for people throughout the day. So, if you want to, you could do a quick 10-minute workout four times a day and you would have completed a 40-minute workout!
  6. Come prepared: Make it a habit to pack a gym bag before you go to classes or work. This way you can go straight to the gym without any additional trips that can get you sidetracked.
  7. Get in more daily fitness: You can get in easy workouts by just doing everyday things. For example, you can take the stairs instead of the elevator, or walk instead of taking the bus. These seem simple, but they add up over the course of the week. A study from The Ohio State University found that you can burn around 20% more calories by just altering your walking pace instead of keeping a consistent speed. You can even make sure you’re active over the weekend. Go for a walk, go for a bike ride, go hiking, or even play a game of baseball.
  8. Be accountable, but reasonable: Some days are going to be harder than others, and you’re just trying to tackle it all. There are going to be many days where you don’t honestly have the time or energy to work out, and that’s okay! When those days happen, allow yourself to miss. But make sure you get moving the next day. Although you don’t want to create the habit of not working out, give yourself room to be human.

Working out does not have to be a scary or daunting thing. Make the most out of it and make it yours! Trying to balance school and fitness can be a lot, but it’s totally doable. Whether you are a student or parent of a student, do your best and keep pushing toward your goals!

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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: goal setting group fitness college school fall time management exercise plan workout plan