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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Hannah Peters

Recent Posts by Hannah Peters:

The Benefits of Physical Activity: Mind, Body, and More

GettyImages-627455550-[Converted]-newBy this point, everyone has heard that exercise is good for health. The fitness industry has been growing significantly over the past decade. As of 2017, there were more than 200,000 health and fitness clubs worldwide, which is up from nearly 130,000 clubs in 2009. Clearly, fitness is becoming a huge part of peoples’ lives. But why are we seeing this massive growth in the industry, and in what ways is it improving health?

The Physical Benefits

The physical benefits of increased activity include the following.

Increased Muscle Mass

A well-known benefit to working out is increased muscle mass. This alone has so many benefits to your health besides the visual appeal that people seek. Muscle is a huge driver for metabolism. In fact, it takes so much energy to maintain muscle mass that having more of it increases metabolism significantly, even at rest.

Improved Bone Health

Most people hit peak bone mass in early adulthood. After we hit our peak, our bone density begins to decline. Several factors go into how much we build before we hit our peak and how fast we fall once over that peak. And of course, exercise is a huge factor in this. Weight-bearing activity that forces you to challenge gravity is huge in preserving or even building bone density by breaking down the bone so it can build back even stronger.

Better Sleep

Exercise can improve sleep quality by expelling built-up energy. Another way sleep improves is the cycle of body temperature brought on by exercise. During activity the temperature increases; once activity has stopped the temperature gradually decreases, causing chemicals to be released that promote drowsiness.

Increased Energy and Stamina

In the short term, exercise increases blood flow throughout the body to improve energy. Over time, exercise causes improvements in cardiovascular health, allowing the heart to pump more oxygen-rich blood throughout the body, therefore increasing energy.

Reduced Cholesterol

When exercise, weight loss, and dietary intervention are combined, the LDL (bad) cholesterol levels decrease while HDL (good) cholesterol levels increase.

Decreased Risk of Chronic Diseases

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “exercise is medicine,” it will be no surprise that exercise actually reduces the risk of chronic diseases. Various things happen in the body to cause this, but the most important is that by getting active, the chances of developing Type 2 Diabetes, some cancers, stroke, heart disease, and more are drastically reduced.

Increased Coordination and Balance

By staying active, people learn how to be more coordinated and balanced. Motor control over movements becomes more natural the more it is practiced, and will translate to real-life scenarios. In the long run, especially through aging, this is beneficial to help prevent falls and the negative consequences, such as fractured bones, that come along with them.

The Mental Benefits

The mental benefits of increased activity include the following.

  • Stress relief
  • Positive mood
  • Improved mental alertness
  • Reduced anxiety and depression
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Increased cognitive function

Most of these improvements occur due to the increased blood flow to the brain, which acts on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. This area of the brain interacts with several other regions, including the limbic system, hippocampus, and amygdala, which are correlated with motivation, mood, and responses to stress. Other noted improvements may be explained by providing distraction, improving self-efficacy, and increasing social interaction. Research shows that exercise can improve cognitive function by promoting neuroplasticity. By staying active throughout adulthood and senior years, cognitive decline can be prevented.

Although many mechanisms go into this complicated process, one thing that is known is that the rate of neurogenesis, or the production of new neurons, is greatly increased by exercise. This may be the result of increased blood flow to the brain during exercise, with an abundance of oxygen and nutrients.

Other Benefits

A lot of benefits that come from exercise can be measured or researched. Some benefits are harder to measure but still occur. We learn how to set realistic yet challenging goals, learn the discipline needed to accomplish those goals, and learn more about ourselves. We can gain a better understanding of how much we can push ourselves and improve our mind-body connection.

How Much Should You Work Out?

The current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans outlines the recommended amount of activity for different age groups. Adults should do at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise a week. Most health benefits can start to be seen at the minimum amount; however more benefits are seen beyond 300 minutes of activity a week. Adults should also do some type of resistance-training exercise at least two days of the week.

At NIFS, we have multiple group fitness classes every day to help you reach your goals and hit the minimum requirements. Check out the group fitness schedule for 30–60-minute classes to help you achieve at least 150 minutes of exercise a week.

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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: NIFS staying active group fitness balance mental disease prevention sleep staying fit active aging physical activity

Update Your Fitness Routine: Add Variety to Enhance Your Health

GettyImages-1026603090How do you define fitness? Whatever your answer is, it will shape the way you work out, influence the goals you set, and impact your long-term health. Although everyone might have different perceptions of what “fitness” means, the American College of Sports Medicine has defined what Health-Related Physical Fitness is and has broken it down into five measurable components.

Whether you know it or not, you use every single component in everyday life, so incorporating all of these factors is vital to maintaining high quality of life. As people age, their ability to carry out certain tasks may become compromised if they don’t regularly challenge their bodies to perform them. So, one key to aging well is to incorporate all of the components of health-related physical fitness.

The 5 Components of Health-Related Physical Fitness

  • Body composition is the comparison between fat mass and fat-free mass, where fat-free mass is everything that isn’t fat, including muscle, organs, bones, and so on. This proportion can be used to assess risk for potential health issues, or used as a baseline measure to be retested after you have started a program to track progress. There are several ways to measure body composition; the most accurate methods are water displacement or the BodPod. (See the complete list of NIFS assessments here.)
  • Muscular strength is the amount of force a muscle can produce in a single maximal effort. Muscular strength is relative to a specific muscle group, so a few different tests may need to be conducted to get an overall picture of your strength. A grip strength test is popular and has been utilized frequently in the fitness world. Another is the Repetition Maximum test that can be conducted by the NIFS Health and Fitness Instructors. It is important to gain or maintain muscular strength as you age for many reasons, but we use our strength every day.
  • Muscular endurance, by definition, is the ability of a muscle group to execute repeated contractions over a period of time sufficient to cause fatigue. Like muscular strength, it varies depending on the muscle group, so multiple tests are required for a proper assessment. A common muscular endurance test is the pushup test (you’re probably familiar with this test from grade school). Another is the plank test, which is relatively new, and is a way to get a baseline value for core endurance and use it as a reference for retesting to measure improvements.
  • Flexibility is having the ability to move a joint through its full range of motion. Having sufficient flexibility can help prevent injuries and ensure that you’re capable of performing movements that you may need in daily life. While having enough flexibility is necessary, too much can be risky.
  • Cardiovascular endurance is the ability of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems to deliver oxygen to the rest of the body during continuous exercise. It’s directly correlated to our ability to perform exercise that involves large muscles, dynamic movements, and moderate- to high-intensity workouts over a period of time. Having adequate cardiovascular endurance is vital to keep up with daily activities.

Start with Things You Like to Do and Then Branch Out

If your main goal is to achieve good health, you’ll want to make sure you distribute your training so you can hit all of the categories. Start by doing things you like to do and then branch out by trying new things. It’s common for people to tailor their training to one particular component for whatever goal they are trying to achieve, but to be lacking in most of the other areas. For example, a marathon runner might excel in cardiovascular endurance but be less than average in muscular strength or flexibility.

On the other hand, someone who only lifts heavy weights may lack cardiovascular endurance. However, the runner may start to notice running is easier after incorporating resistance training into their routine, or their muscles might feel great after adding stretching and mobility work. This doesn’t just apply to marathon runners or heavy lifters; almost everyone can benefit from including all 5 components into their routines.

To sum it up, you should practice different forms of exercise to achieve a holistic fitness regimen. It’s perfectly fine to include running, resistance training, or group fitness such as yoga or BODYPUMP, and that’s just a few examples. There are so many different activities and classes to try to help get you to your goals. When you blend different types of training, you can discover your talents, weak links, and things you just enjoy doing.

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

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

 

Topics: NIFS group fitness endurance flexibility strength exercises BODPOD variety fitness assessment physical fitness