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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

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

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

Better Sleep = Healthier Living

GettyImages-820818020How often is it that you hear someone say, “Man, that was a great night’s sleep!” or “I slept like a baby!”? Not as often as we would like to hear, I would say! Being tired and feeling sluggish seems to be the new normal. According to the National Sleep Foundation, most Americans are sleep-deprived. Not getting enough sleep might be causing a lot more trouble than just that sleepy feeling. In fact, it could be seriously harming your health.

Why Aren’t We Sleeping?

Centuries ago, it was common for people to sleep anywhere from 8 to 9 hours each night. But now only about 25 percent of Americans get 8 or more hours of sleep. There are various reasons why we aren’t sleeping. We live in a society that is constantly on the go, 24/7. From fitness centers being open 24 hours to pharmacies and department stores being open later, around-the-clock convenience is there.

So many activities go on during a 24-hour period. From working long hours, transporting kids to their activities, trying to make time for friends, not to mention enjoying a little bit of entertainment—oh, and can’t forget about making time for our health and fitness goals. Sleep is typically the first thing to disappear from our lives, so it becomes second nature to not get enough of it.

Here’s the thing though: even when we do end up finally getting into bed, it doesn’t exactly mean we go right to sleep. The National Sleep Foundation reports that 60 parent of Americans have sleep problems. You heard it right—more than half of us struggle to sleep, and we are starting to pay for it.

The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation

“The foundations of good health are good diet, good exercise, and good sleep, but two out of the three doesn’t get you there.” —Dr. Anne Calhoun, neurology professor, University of North Carolina (source: CBC)

The three components that are needed to make up a healthy lifestyle are exercise, eating healthy, and sleep. Exercise and nutrition aren’t enough to make up for the danger that sleep deprivation poses to your health, however. Some studies indicate that adults can get as little as 7 hours of sleep a night and that can be sufficient. But shooting more for 8 hours would make a world of difference. And getting less than 7 can cause some serious consequences:

Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

If you get less than 6 hours of sleep each night and have disrupted sleep, you have a 48 percent greater risk of developing or dying from heart disease and a 15 percent greater risk of developing or dying from a stroke. Not to mention, lack of sleep can cause high blood pressure, blocked arteries, stroke, kidney disease, and dementia.

Obesity

Sleep shortage is directly linked to obesity. When you don’t get enough sleep, two very powerful hormones that control hunger are disrupted, resulting in you feeling hungrier and having fewer sensations of fullness.

Not getting enough will also cause you to feel more stressed, which boosts the production of the hormone cortisol in your body. The cortisol hormone causes you to crave high-carbohydrate foods such as chips and brownies, which then turn into the fat around your belly, which is the most dangerous place to store fat.

Another reason sleep is important is that the risk of pre-diabetes goes up. When trying to make it on less than 6 hours of sleep per night, your glucose tolerance becomes impaired.

Immune System Becomes Depleted

Ever wonder how two people can be exposed to the same germs, but only one of them gets sick? The answer: their immune systems. When you have a well-functioning immune system, you are capable of warding off many illnesses. But when something is causing your immune system to not function the right way, like sleep deprivation, you become vulnerable to infections, bacteria, viruses, and even some autoimmune diseases such as arthritis and asthma.

Less sleep = more stress and a compromised immune system

Low Exercise Performance

As if the threat of heart disease, obesity, and immune suppression isn’t enough to deal with, lack of sleep can negatively impact your fitness regimen as well. A recent study in Lipids in Health and Disease came to the conclusion that exercise can help increase insulin sensitivity and sleep quality while decreasing body fat.

***

At the end of the day, lack of sleep does far more harm to your health than you might realize. Although it might take some rearranging of your schedule, putting sleep first means that you don’t have to worry about making time for illness—because, let’s be honest, who has time to get sick?

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, Weight Loss Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: disease prevention sleep immunity cardiovascular obesity sleep deprivation heart health

Healthy Lifestyle: Three Key Ways to Prevent Disease and Illness

GettyImages-926422030What’s your motivation for working out? Eat healthy? What’s your motivation to get enough sleep or practice de-stressing with yoga or foam rolling? What’s your motive to get your friends and family to go on a walk or to the gym with you?

What’s YOUR Motivation?

In a matter of minutes you can change your mindset. In a matter of minutes, you can be inspired to want to live a healthy lifestyle and to prevent disease and illness. But it involves commitment and no excuses.

“I have cancer.” Those are the three tragic words that no one wants to hear. But I’ve heard my mom tell me this three times. These words changed my mind in three seconds. They are the three words that motivate me to motivate you.

Did You Know?

Some statistics about illness in America:

  • Approximately 38.4% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes (based on 2013–2015 data from https://www.cancer.gov).
  • Did you know that about 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes each year?
  • Did you know that about 735,000 Americans die from a heart attack each year?
  • Did you know that about 32.3% of males and 35.5% of female adults are obese in America?

These statistics are not meant to scare you; they are meant to bring awareness. And these are the conclusions of just a few of the studies relating to health issues in the US.

Did you know... you have the power, through your choices, to not become one of these statistics?

Where to Begin

Mapping out goals to create healthier habits for different areas of your life can be a great first step in preventing deadly diseases. So what are some things that doctors recommend you do on a daily and weekly basis to help prevent becoming one of these statistics?

  1. Movement is Medicine: A study showed that Americans are sitting an average of 13 hours a day and sleeping an average of 8, which means they are sedentary 21 out of the 24 hours of the day. This is a leading factor for disease in America. Get up and incorporate movement into your day to get your heart beating and blood flowing. Incorporating movement for blood flow helps carry oxygen and nutrients to cells and organs for nourishment. If cells are not activated, it can lead to their mutations, which leads to cancer or other diseases.
  2. Proper fuel: The average American eats way too much added sugar and processed foods because they are convenient. But as important as nourishment is to the cells, you want to nourish them properly with fuel. What we put into our bodies effects what nourishment and vitamins our bodies receive. Eating fruits, vegetables, healthy carbs, and lean meats gives you key nutrients to fuel properly. Eating in a caloric range that is appropriate for the body and practicing portion control is just as important. One way to figure out what your body needs is to get a BodPod or RMR assessment test to find the range best for your body’s needs. In addition to food, our bodies need water to flush out toxins constantly and properly hydrate the control systems. Drink lots of water every day.
  3. Relaxation: Stress is arguably one of the leading causes of disease. When someone is stressed, it often leads to the other healthy habits going out the window. Learning to clear the mind and de-stress can be so beneficial in the long run. There are many ways to do this, but a few cheap methods that you can incorporate daily are meditation, yoga/stretching, and foam rolling. Releasing built-up toxins in the body can aid in natural detoxification and preventing cell and organ mutations.

There are many other methods of prevention to incorporate into your lifestyle, but these are the three key factors. Make it a goal to start incorporating these and then slowly add more disease and cancer-prevention modalities. 

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This blog was written by Brittany Ignas, BS in Kinesiology, 200 Hour Yoga Alliance Certified, Stott Pilates Certified, and Fitness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition stress motivation disease prevention cancer relaxation sitting assessment movement

Are You Getting Enough Sleep? Simple Solutions for Beating Insomnia

GettyImages-469577750.jpgMatthew Walker, the director of the Center for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, has made it his career goal to reinforce the fact that 20 large-scale epidemiological studies have all reported the same relationship: the shorter your sleep, the shorter your life. Today, one in three Americans can be categorized as sleep deprived.


The Effects of Sleep Deprivation

As defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sleep deprivation is a condition that occurs if you don't get enough sleep. Not only does a shortage of sleep affect your productivity, but on less than seven hours of sleep, your body's natural killer cells work less effectively. Walker notes that between 1950 and 2017, the US obesity rate has risen from 13% to the likes of 35%.

“Sleep is the single most effective thing you can do to reset your brain and body.”
—Dr. Matthew Walker, U.C., Berkeley

As obesity in America has steadily risen, the amount of sleep individuals are accumulating per night has decreased—almost two and a half hours, to be exact. Not only is sleep deprivation being glorified as an accomplishment in today’s society, extensive research has concluded that sleep deprivation puts unnecessary stress on the human body, including weight gain. Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to an increase in heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes.

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) outlines that both young adults (ages 18–25) and adults (ages 26–64) should aim for 7–9 hours per night consistently. Sounds easy, right? With the prevalence of social media alongside TV and cell phone usage at night, however, most Americans fall short.

Five Tips for Overcoming Insomnia

Here are some tips from the NSF to help you capture the ZZZs and start sawing logs in no time.

  • Stick to a sleep schedule of the same bedtime and wakeup time, even on the weekends. This helps regulate your body clock and could help you fall asleep and stay asleep for the night.
  • Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. A relaxing, routine activity right before bedtime conducted away from bright lights helps separate your sleep time from activities that can cause excitement, stress, or anxiety, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep, get sound and deep sleep, or remain asleep.
  • Exercise daily. Vigorous exercise is best, but even light exercise is better than no activity. Exercise at any time of day, but not at the expense of your sleep.
  • Evaluate your room. Your bedroom should be cool—between 60 and 67 degrees. Check your room for noises or other distractions. Consider using blackout curtains, eye shades, earplugs, “white-noise" machines, humidifiers, fans, and other devices.
  • If you can't sleep, go into another room and do something relaxing until you feel tired. It is best to take work materials, computers, and televisions out of the sleeping environment. If you associate a particular activity or item with anxiety about sleeping, omit it from your bedtime routine.

If you’re still having trouble sleeping after following the above tips, don’t hesitate to speak with your doctor or to find a sleep professional in your area. Check out the following resources for more information.

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This blog was written by Ellyn Grant, Healthy Lifestyle Coordinator. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: disease prevention sleep productivity heart disease obesity insomnia sleep deprivation

Fabulous Fall Recipes for Delicious Nutrition

ThinkstockPhotos-506243524.jpgThis is definitely my favorite time of year: football, cooler weather, and the return of all things apple and pumpkin. Not only are they chock-full of vitamins and other healthy goodness, but they are also delicious!


Apples: Benefits and a Recipe

The old quote “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” could not be more correct. This fruit is loaded with fiber (a typical tennis ball–sized piece has 4 filling fiber grams), which helps to keep you satisfied. They are also high in immune-boosting Vitamin C. One recent study found that eating apples was directly linked to having a lower incidence of death from coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease.

Another surprising benefit of this fruit is that they may boost your endurance during a workout. The antioxidant quercetin makes oxygen more available in the lungs, and one study showed that individuals who had this antioxidant prior to a workout were able to cycle longer.

Grab one for a snack or try this delicious dessert.

Baked Cinnamon Apples

Ingredients:

4 large good baking apples, such as Rome Beauty, Golden Delicious, or Jonagold

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup raisins

1 Tbsp butter

3/4 cup boiling water

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Wash apples. Remove cores to a half-inch of the bottom of the apples. Make the holes about 3/4 inch to an inch wide.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, cinnamon, raisins, and pecans.
  3. Place apples in an 8-inch-by-8-inch square baking dish. Stuff each apple with this mixture. Top each with a dot of butter (1/4 Tbsp). Add boiling water to the baking pan.
  4. Bake 30–40 minutes, until tender but not mushy. Remove from the oven and enjoy!
    Serves 4.

Calories: 230; Fat: 8g; Fiber: 6g. Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes.

Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice

Pumpkins have just as much to brag about as apples do. Pumpkin is loaded with Vitamin A, which is essential for boosting your immune system, vision health, and bone health. You also get a significant amount of potassium from pumpkin. This helps keep your fluid and mineral balance regulated, which helps with heart function.

That bright orange color from pumpkin means it is high in the antioxidant betacarotene. This means it is heart protective and can help lower your risk for heart disease. Finally, just like apples, pumpkin is loaded with fiber. Each cup of pureed pumpkin has 7 grams of fiber. That’s one-third of your daily needs!

I like to use pureed canned pumpkin as a fat replacer in cake mixes, brownies, and muffin mixes. Just substitute the same amount of pumpkin for the oil called for in recipes and enjoy a lower-fat and nutritious treat. Here is a wonderful quick dessert to whip up, too.

Pumpkin Mousse

Ingredients:

3 cups cold fat-free milk

2 pkg. (1.5 oz. each) vanilla flavor fat-free, sugar-free instant pudding

1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin

1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

1 cup thawed fat-free whipped topping

Directions:

  1. Beat milk and pudding mix in medium bowl and whisk for 2 minutes.
  2. Blend in pumpkin and spice.
  3. Stir in whipped topping.
  4. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.
  5. Makes 12 half-cup servings.

Calories: 60; Total Protein: 3g; Total Fat: 1g. Recipe adapted from Kraft Recipes.

Enjoy these fabulous fall superfoods while they are plentiful, and give your autumn nutrition a boost!

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition recipes disease prevention fiber antioxidants fall apples pumpkin spice

I Want a New Drug: Using Exercise as Medicine

ThinkstockPhotos-481324622.jpgWhat if I told you that I had a drug that could help cure the majority of your ailments, make your workday and life more productive, and help you sleep better? How much would you pay for this drug? But wait, there’s more! This drug can also

  • Increase blood flow to the brain, creating new blood vessels.
  • Help you withstand fatigue.
  • Decrease depression.
  • Improve memory.
  • Quicken learning time.
  • Increase bone density.
  • Help wounds heal faster.
  • Improve eye health.
  • Produce weight loss and fat cell shrinkage.
  • Slow the aging process.
  • Extend your life span by as many as 5 years.
  • Decrease the risk for heart disease, type-2 diabetes, COPD, CHF, and Alzheimer’s disease (that’s right, it’s currently the only known medicine to delay and even combat this disease).
  • Elicit feelings of joy and victory.

If I told you I had a drug that could do all that and more, would you consider it a wonder drug? I know I would! How much would you pay for that drug? Also, the most serious side effects of this drug are an increase in appetite and some muscle soreness from time to time. Now how much would you pay? What if I told you most forms of this drug are FREE? That’s right, EXERCISE is the drug I am referring to, but you figured that out already, didn’t you?

You may also be saying to yourself, that’s easy for a fitness professional to proclaim all those benefits of exercise, but it’s science, not my personal feelings about exercise. And if only the medical community and our society would listen to the science, Americans might not spend $3.35 trillion this year in health care, an all-time high! The U.S. spends more on health care than all other high-income nations, yet we are still the most unhealthy and diseased country. I’m not a scientist, but something doesn’t seem right about that equation.

But back to this drug that can do all the above and won’t even come close to touching that $3 trillion mark—EXERCISE! Here’s a quick rundown of what we know about exercise and its disease prevention impact.

The Science

In a recent special edition of TIME magazine, you can read about the science of exercise. It also tackles the idea of exercise as medicine, looking at the notion from several angles and different vantage points. Here is just a little of the science surrounding exercise and how it truly is a super drug.

  • In 2011 a team led by Mark Tarnopolsky studied genetically diseased mice that caused them to age prematurely. Half the mice were sedentary and the other half ran on a treadmill for 5 months. At the study’s end, the sedentary mice were barely hanging on, and the active mice were “nearly indistinguishable” from healthy mice, even though they were suffering from this genetic disease.
  • According to a 2006 University of Georgia review of 70 studies, it was found that regular exercise increases energy and reduces fatigue in adults of all ages with various health conditions and healthy ones as well—even those who suffered from ailments that cause fatigue, such as fibromyalgia.
  • Research shows that the less you move, the higher your risk for just about every health problem increases substantially.
  • Data from the National Weight Control Registry, which is an ongoing decades-long study, shows that people who lose a considerable amount of weight maintain the loss in part by exercising most days of the week.
  • A 1999 Duke University study found that adults suffering from depression who did 45 minutes of aerobic exercise three times per week improved their mood as much as individuals who took the antidepressant Zoloft instead of exercise.
  • In a three-month study, Martin Gibala tested how effective a 10-minute workout could be compared to the standard 50-minute session. The shorter workouts resulted in identical improvements in heart function and blood-sugar control.

The Prescription

The current guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommend getting 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 120 minutes a week of moderate–vigorous aerobic exercise, or a combination of both. The ACSM, myself included, also highly recommend strength and endurance training as a part of a balanced exercise program.

A lot of activities count as exercise that many don’t realize, and people feel that they have to have an extensive exercise program and fancy health club to exercise. But we really just need to move. Now don’t get me wrong, I strongly recommend seeking the counsel of a fitness professional to help get you on your way to a healthier lifestyle or to redefine your current fitness level and aspirations. But until then, the prescription to stay healthy is simply to increase your movement throughout the day.

If you are unable to dedicate 30 straight minutes a day, break it up into three 10-minute sessions. We should all be able to spare 10 minutes to be able throw away the bottle of pills. Don’t forget that lawn work constitutes exercise, and so does taking the stairs.

Here are a few more physical activities that can allow anyone to meet the standard recommendations for exercise and physical activity: Walking, household chores, dancing, golf, basketball, tennis, volleyball, hiking, jogging, running, shoveling snow, raking the lawn, carrying heavy loads, biking, cross-country skiing, swimming, soccer… the list goes on and on! There are so many options to get the recommended amount of exercise for health. Choose the one that you enjoy and go do it!

The Takeaways

Until recently, the healthcare system was inching toward a model of value-based care as opposed to volume-based care, and docs and hospitals were essentially going to be penalized for longer patient stays and reoccurring patient visits. On the surface, that makes a great deal of sense to me; if you are not helping a person get back to being healthy, you shouldn’t be rewarded for it. I’m also not naïve enough to think there are not a lot of “hands in the pot” when it comes to healthcare, and many have a say as to the logistics of the current health care system. But the ACSM, with the Exercise Is Medicine initiative, have their heels on the ground marching toward the value-based system that will hopefully create real change in the health of our nation. I’m sure you can agree that a change of this magnitude will take some time, but there are some things we can be doing in the meantime.

First and foremost, talk to your doctor about how exercise can help you with any current conditions or battle future ones. If your doctor is unable to give you the advice you need, remember, they are not fitness experts. Seek out the assistance of a fitness pro to help. More simply, get up and move, and take someone with you! We can all help create change.

Hippocrates wrote many years ago that “Eating alone will not keep a man well. He must also take exercise.” We knew then what we should be practicing now: exercise is the true medicine for the ailments that plague mankind these days. So instead of looking at the next prescription drug label, let’s take a walk and talk about how we can be truly healthy by using exercise as medicine.

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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: fitness disease prevention exercise as medicine drugs weight control

Is Chocolate REALLY Good for You? The Nutrition Behind the Treat

ThinkstockPhotos-71264413.jpegYou’ve seen it on the news and read articles in magazines, but is it really true? Can chocolate actually be good for you? Isn’t it too delicious and forbidden to be a food that can help with heart disease? Of course nutrition is confusing and things change all the time about what is good and isn’t so good for you, so what is the deal with chocolate?

The good news is that yes, chocolate is good for you; there have been plenty of studies proving that there are health benefits to chocolate. It does matter, however, how much and what type of chocolate you are consuming. So before you grab that king-size Hershey bar, read below to learn what to do and understand the benefits when it comes to eating chocolate in the appropriate amounts.

The Nutrition Science of Chocolate

The cacao bean, which is the base of chocolate candy, is loaded with nutrients called flavonoids. Flavonoids help protect from environmental toxins and repair damage to the body. They provide antioxidants that help the body resist cell damage from free radicals. The main flavonoids are flavanols, which can reduce blood pressure, improve blood flow, and make blood platelets clot more easily.

ThinkstockPhotos-510580190.jpegCocoa naturally has a very strong taste, so it has to go through many steps to form your favorite type of chocolate. And through this processing many of the flavanols are lost. Most commercial chocolates are highly processed, and therefore have the lowest amount of antioxidants. However, dark chocolate that has undergone minimal processing will have the highest amount of flavonoids. As far as cocoa goes, the best choice is one that hasn’t undergone Dutch processing, which is when they treat it with an alkali to neutralize the natural acidity. (For more about how chocolate is created and how to enjoy it, check out this book.)

Be careful about the type of dark chocolate you choose, though. Typically one that contains over 70% cocoa will give you more of the heart-healthy benefits. And watch out for the extras such as caramel, nougat, and pretzels that are added to the chocolate. Those can add a ton of extra fat and calories to the treat, and are not high in nutritional value.

How Much Chocolate Should You Eat?

There is currently no established serving size for the amount that is healthy for your heart. So the general recommendation is to stick to 1 oz. of dark chocolate per day. This is the equivalent of one square of baking chocolate, 54 chocolate chips, or 6 Hershey’s kisses.

Other Foods Rich in Flavonoids

Dark chocolate isn’t the only way to get in flavonoids, though. They can be found in many foods such as cranberries, apples, onions, peanuts, tea, and red wine. So make sure to enjoy chocolate a few times a week, but also incorporate other foods that have many of the same disease prevention benefits.

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

Topics: nutrition disease prevention antioxidants chocolate

The Health Risks of Carrying Excess Abdominal Fat

ThinkstockPhotos-147268279.jpgUnfortunately many people are not fully aware of the danger of carrying excess body fat around their waistlines. Most of us know that in order to get those beach-body abs we all long for, we have to first lose the excess abdominal fat. This is almost everybody’s only motivation for trying to lose belly fat. However, there are deeper and more serious disease prevention reasons to address excess fat in this area.

Two Types of Body Fat

Humans carry two different types of fat in their bodies:

  • Subcutaneous fat: The noticeable layer of fat that is just beneath the skin (the fat you need to lose to see your abs).
  • Visceral fat: Fat that is found deeper in the abdominal area under the muscles and surrounding the organs, such as liver, pancreas, and intestines.

The majority of people are mainly concerned with losing subcutaneous fat since this is the fat you will need to lose in order to let your abs shine through. If you are carrying excess visceral fat, however, there are more reasons to be concerned.

The Health Risks

Because visceral fat resides deep in the abdomen, it can be a huge health risk. Having excess visceral fat can lead to increased risk of the following health conditions:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Breast cancer
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • High cholesterol
  • Metabolic Syndrome
Although genetics do play a role in the amount of visceral fat a person carries, your diet and physical activity level are also major contributors. A sub-par diet and exercise routine puts you at increased risk of carrying excess visceral fat.

Visceral fat can go completely unnoticed because you cannot see it with the naked eye. One way researchers detect visceral fat is through an MRI, which takes a picture of the inside of the abdominal area.

Tips for Losing Fat

Here are some simple tips to help you lose and prevent storing visceral and subcutaneous fat:

  • Use compound movements: Compound movements allow you to get the most bang for your fitness buck. Incorporate as many multi-joint movements as possible into your workout in order to use more energy and burn more calories. Examples are squats, dead lifts, pushups, bench presses, lat pull-downs, and lunges.
  • Try HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training): The purpose of HIIT is to alternate between short bursts of intense activity for a fixed period of time—for example, 20 seconds followed by a short rest period. Because of the fast-paced nature of HIIT, it will cause you to use great amounts of energy within a short time, causing a huge calorie-burning workout. Don’t believe me? Join one of our HIT classes at NIFS and see if it isn’t the best workout you’ve had in years!
  • Change up your workouts: Switching up your workouts periodically will keep your body from becoming too accustomed to your workouts. Once your body becomes too familiar with a certain exercise routine, it begins to decrease the amount of energy needed to complete the routine. By switching up your workouts every 4 to 5 weeks, you are constantly throwing new challenges at your body, forcing it to never reach a plateau. Work with one of our Health Fitness Specialists today to get new ideas on how to switch up your workouts regularly.
  • Improve your diet: NIFS new app, My Nutirition Coach, can help you get daily feedback on your eating habits. Nutrition plays an important part in health and fitness!

Storing fat can be a little more dangerous than you might have thought. When you actually take into consideration the harm you may be doing to your body, hopefully you will be more motivated to shed those extra pounds!

Ready to take the first step to better health and fitness? Schedule a free fitness assessment with us today!

Free Fitness Assessment

This blog was written by Darius Felix, Health Fitness Specialist at NIFS. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: weight loss workouts disease prevention excess fat metabolic syndrome

Never Give Up: Fighting Diabetes with Exercise and Diet

Diabetes is a very familiar topic for me. Being diagnosed with Type I diabetes in my early 20s (not far removed from being a collegiate athlete) has made a huge impact on my life and how I face every day.

Always being on the active side and loving the endorphins of exercise has been both a blessing and a curse. Exercise plays a huge role in fighting diabetes, not only in prevention but also in management. Some people who have diabetes are the unlucky ones with inherited genetics, while others develop it through lifelong lifestyle habits ranging from poor nutrition to inactivity. More often than not, we can take control of this situation and overcome the effects by following the guidelines set forth by our healthcare providers and by listening to our bodies. 

Countering the Effects of Diabetes

Covering serious health topics such as heart health and foot health, the negative effects of diabetes are vast. With limited options available, we must turn to good old Mother Nature. Healthy lifestyles consisting of proper nutrition mixed with a modest yet consistent workout routine provide your body the necessary tools to cultivate and sustain some resistance to the overwhelming complications of diabetes. From this, you can see that your best friends will soon be a good gym buddy or a personal trainer to help hold your workout routine accountable, and a myfitnesspal app or a registered dietician to help hold your nutrition plan together.

The Importance of Monitoring Glucose Before Exercise

You may say, “Thomas, this blog can’t be all sunshine and rainbows.” You are correct. There are underlying factors that make simple solutions to diabetes an even steeper hill to climb. Individuals with diabetes are affected by almost every food they eat and every rep and set of exercise they push through. High and low blood glucose levels from improper insulin dosage or other medication are extremely dangerous. The only way to ensure you are ready to work out is to utilize a glucose monitor multiple times throughout the day. This includes before and after meals, before and after workout sessions, and the first thing when you wake up in the morning (fasting) and right before you go to bed. That’s a lot of little finger pokes. 

Diabetic Neuropathy

Another diabetes-related issue is called neuropathy, which is basically the desensitization of nerves in the extremities. You may be thinking, “This is great; I won’t feel pain anymore!” But what you don’t know is that now you can injure yourself without knowing and make it even worse by not addressing the issue, which can lead to irreversible damage. From this, you’ll find that your new best friends are going to be your endocrinologist and your podiatrist.

We Are Here to Help

There are many other friends that you will make along the way, ranging from your optometrist to the friendly types encouraging you to stay on the wagon. My suggestion is to let them help you. Because diabetes is a road that is nearly impassible without the help of others, you will find each helping hand not only makes the journey easier, but lets you know you are not alone in your fight. 

For more information about how NIFS can provide you with the proper atmosphere and knowledge to succeed with diabetes, contact the track desk to speak with one of our certified and degreed fitness professionals. NIFS is also proud to offer a registered dietician who can help you make informed decisions regarding your diet plan.

NEVER GIVE UP

What did you eat today? Don’t underestimate the role that proper nutrition plays in your health and fitness. Contact Angie Scheetz ascheetz@nifs.org or call 317-274-3432 to find out more about the My Nutrition Coach app

Learn MoreThis blog was written by Thomas Livengood, Health Fitness Instructor at NIFS. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

Topics: NIFS exercise nutrition Thomas' Corner diabetes disease prevention