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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Five Steps to Begin Your Weight-Loss Journey

ThinkstockPhotos-498764272_new.jpgWeight loss tends to be one of the most controversial topics talked about, but I want to take a positive approach. With the new year right here, weight loss tops the list of many people’s New Year’s resolutions.

I would absolutely never undervalue the effort, time, energy, and commitment it takes to be successful at losing weight. Don’t let anyone lie to you; weight loss is hard and has a “whole picture” element combining exercise, clean eating, and emotional, physical and psychological battles. This is why I like to call weight loss a journey. It will not happen overnight, but I believe that everyone can succeed if they put their minds and hearts into changing their habits*.

Tips for Getting Started

I want to share five things to help you get started on your journey:

  1. Make a commitment. The first step to beginning this journey is to make a commitment that you are going to hold onto. You’ve made the decision that it’s time to make a change, and now you must make a promise to yourself that you are going to stick with it.
  2. Identify your habits. Take some time to think about what healthy habits you have that you want to keep and that will help you in your journey. What things will help you stick to your plan? For example, I am good at following a schedule, so if that habit will help me (like scheduling in my workouts so I am positive I will attend), I want to incorporate that into my plan. Then identify habits that are not helping you and think about how you are going to get those out of the way.
  3. Come up with a plan. This doesn’t have to be something that is crazy and elaborate. Start small and come up with three action steps toward a plan. It’s always easier to stick to a plan when you have one in place before you start.
  4. Find support. One of the hardest things about weight reduction is accountability. You want to be sure to find someone (family, friends, a trainer, someone else on a weight-loss journey, spouse, and so on) that you can be honest with to help keep you accountable. Much of weight-loss success comes from those supporting and encouraging someone else who is on their journey.
  5. Put your plan into action. Okay, you have decided it’s time! Now that you have your plan, do something about it. Sign up for that gym membership or a 5K you have been putting off, or try a weight-loss program—whatever will motivate you to stick to it.

It’s important to remember that there will be times when you mess up. AND THAT’S OKAY! Don’t get down on yourself; get yourself back up and keep pushing through. I hope that if losing weight is one of your goals, you will take these five steps to get you going in the right direction!

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Check out NIFS's all new Ramp Up to Weight Loss membership to get you going. This program offers 14-weeks of workouts with one of our certified trainers, meetings with our dietician and fitness assessments to help you plan and track your progress. Click below to learn more.

*Weight loss claims and/or individual results vary and are not guaranteed.

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This blog was written by Amanda Bireline, Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: exercise nutrition healthy habits weight loss accountability NIFS programs goals mindset lifestyle making changes

Fabulous Farmers’ Markets Make Healthy Eating Easy and Fun

ThinkstockPhotos-460495043One of my favorite things to do once it is summer in Indiana is to visit the various farmers’ markets around town. As a dietitian I am a sucker for the fresh fruits and veggies, but I also love the homemade desserts, candles, pasta, kettle corn, fresh flowers, and other wonderful items you can find.

Here are my top five reasons why visiting your local farmers’ market is a must.

  1. Support for the local community: Since the produce is grown and purchased locally, the money remains in the community and stimulates the local economy. Also, when you shop at the farmers’ market, you are cutting out the middle man, and the product is generally less expensive than if you purchased it in the grocery store. 
  2. Eating foods that are in season: Farmers’ market produce is picked ripe and sold soon after picking. Supermarket produce, on the other hand, can take up to two weeks to travel from the farm to the store, even when it is in season. The produce tastes richer and more flavorful, and the nutrients are better retained. Check out the downtown City Market website for which products are available during the months the market is open.
  3. Healthy eating is good for you: The average American eats 4.4 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, as opposed to the current recommendations of 9 servings per day. Picking up multiple servings of fruits and veggies and incorporating them into recipes, meals, and snacks is a great way to get closer to the 9-serving-per-day-goal. This will guarantee you are meeting your recommended vitamin and mineral requirements, increasing your daily fiber intake, and acquiring cancer-fighting antioxidants, too. Locally grown produce is lower in pesticides and chemicals, also. 
  4. You can talk to the farmers who grew the food you are about to eat: You can meet the farmers who grew your food, ask when it was picked, how it was grown, and ways to prepare it. When else do you get the opportunity to learn so much about what you are putting in your mouth?
  5. There is certain to be one that fits your location and schedule: I love being able to go to the City Market farmers’ market on my lunch break downtown and sample the hot, fresh kettle corn; pick up sweet corn; and get homemade cookies on Wednesday afternoons. Saturday mornings, it’s off to the Carmel farmers’ market to purchase a walking waffle, homemade pasta, and a whole assortment of fruits and veggies for the week. To find out the location of a farmers’ market close to you, check out the USDA website.

Whether you are picking up items for dinner or for the whole week, the local farmers’ market is an inexpensive, healthy alternative to the grocery store. Try to get there early to get the best variety and options. Not all vendors accept credit cards, so be sure to have cash on hand. Finally, bring along your own reusable grocery bag to put all of your goodies in so that it is easier to carry home your fresh, delicious finds.

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

Topics: nutrition healthy habits healthy eating summer clean eating organic foods

10 Healthy Habits of Fit People

Let’s get real: getting healthy and fit (and staying that way) doesn’t happen by accident. In my seven years in the fitness industry I have seen quite a bit—enough to know what works and what doesn’t. The people who are able to reach their healthy, happy weight and maintain it end up developing very similar habits to one another. These healthy habits aren’t anything crazy or extreme, but they consistently allow individuals to lead a healthy lifestyle for years and years.

Today I’ve compiled these habits of healthy people so we can all adapt our own habits to be our healthiest selves.

ThinkstockPhotos-4713112341. Start off with a breakfast to FUEL your day.

Remember learning that breakfast was the most important meal of the day? While I believe that all meals are important, breakfast definitely is a meal you shouldn’t consider skipping. Studies show that eating breakfast helps to improve focus, satiety, and energy levels throughout the day. 

So what does that mean for you? You’ll be more productive at work, will work harder during your workouts, and you may have reduced cravings and hunger later in the day. Sounds like a win, win, win to me! 

2. Drink lots of water.

The body is made up of 60% water! Drinking plenty of water throughout the day will help maintain your body’s fluid balance so that nutrients can be transported throughout the body. That means you will more quickly reap the benefits of the healthy foods you eat!  

Drinking water throughout the day helps you feel full. It may sound crazy, but many people mistake thirst for hunger and end up overeating. 

It’s also important to drink water because when you stress and work your muscles in the gym, they are losing water. If you aren’t drinking enough water, your muscles will get tired faster and you may not be able to work as hard. So drink up, buttercup!

3. Set a deadline.

People are more efficient and more likely to reach their goals with a deadline in the picture. Having a deadline helps to eliminate procrastination and makes the goal seem more tangible and realistic. Having a deadline doesn’t mean you can start being “unhealthy” after you reach your goal, but it simply allows you to have a checkpoint to work toward. Once you reach your goal and deadline, reevaluate and set a new goal! It’s all about progress, not perfection, and there is always something we can improve on when it comes to health and fitness.

4. Don’t leave your healthy-eating goals to chance. 

I rarely say NEVER or ALWAYS, but this is an exception to that rule. Never assume that there will be a healthy option when you eat away from home. Always be prepared. Check out the restaurant menu ahead of time, pack healthy snacks, bring a lunch, bring a healthy dish to share, or eat something small before so you aren’t starving. You are in control of your health. It’s not anyone else’s responsibility to make sure there is something nutritious for you to nosh on.

5. Remain consistent.

Consistency is key. We all have days where we skip a workout or overindulge, but as long as healthy is your default, there is no need to sweat it! What matters most is what you do most of the time, not what you do sometimes. So, if choosing healthy (moving your body, eating whole foods, and drinking lots of water) is your sometimes, you may want to switch your mindset.

6. Eat whole, real foods.

Make it your goal to have most of your nourishment come from unprocessed, real foods that are as close to the source as possible. What does that mean? Check out the ingredients. If you are eating a handful of almonds for a snack, the only ingredient should be just that: almonds! Whole foods fill your body with more vitamins and minerals, the nutrition we need to stay healthy on the inside.

7. Fill your home with healthy, nourishing foods.

This tip piggybacks onto the previous piece of advice. If you fill your home with whole foods, they suddenly become a more convenient option than the processed stuff, and less healthy options are eliminated from the picture. If you surround yourself with healthy, delicious food choices, you are more likely to pick those foods when preparing a meal or eating a snack.

8. Take your workout with you.

 Many people travel frequently for work, to visit family, or for vacation. While traveling can make it less easy to fit in your workout, it’s definitely not an excuse to slack off in the fitness department. Talk with your trainer about a travel workout option, pack a resistance band or TRX strap, or pack a workout DVD that doesn’t require any equipment at all! There are endless resources for fitness on the go; it just takes a little planning ahead of time.

9. Learn to be politely picky when eating out.

I have learned that I can find something healthy to eat at almost any restaurant. Many times, the option I choose is not listed on the menu. It can be intimidating to ask for special options at a restaurant, but you will be surprised at how accommodating your server and the restaurant want to be. Be polite when you make requests, and your tummy will be happy with the healthy and delicious outcome!

10. Dedicate time to mental health.

Whether you practice yoga, write a journal, meditate, see a therapist, or have another way of dedicating time to your mental health, it is just as important to make time for this type of exercise as it is to make time to go to the gym. Having a healthy mental state will help you stay on track with your fitness goals and will allow you to balance your busy and crazy life with ease. Find the method that works best for you and stick to it!

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This blog was written by Tara Deal Rochford, contributing writer, group fitness instructor, and author of healthy living blog Treble in the Kitchen. Meet our other NIFS bloggers.

Topics: nutrition healthy habits goal setting snacks breakfast mental weight management water

Pop Quiz: Check Your New Year’s Health and Fitness ReSOLUTIONS

ThinkstockPhotos-163054981Are you excited about your progress thus far in 2018 toward those goals you set back in January?

In a recent post, I discussed Redefining New Year’s Resolutions, and I truly hope that some of the information hit home with you when you determined your course of action this year. 

So how have you fared thus far in accomplishing what you set out to do this year? If you are like most Americans, you would probably answer that question with the frowning-face emoticon. :(

Health and Fitness Goal-Setting by the Numbers

Let’s take a look at some numbers: 

  • Only about 4% of Americans write down their goals.
  • 45% of people make new year’s resolutions.
  • Only 8% of Americans will succeed in their new year’s resolutions
  • Check-ins to gyms drop 10% beginning as early as February (according to a two-year Facebook study). 

Unfortunately, the statistics are against us when it comes to seeing our new life solutions (if you read my earlier posts, you know I hate the word “resolutions”) come to fruition. So I ask you again: How are you doing in the first couple of months in 2018 in accomplishing those promises you made yourself? 

Just like any other health and fitness assessment, it’s beneficial to reevaluate your progress in completing those things you felt were pretty important back in January. So let’s take care of some reasons for why you may not be on track to completing your yearly goals. 

Reasons (or Excuses) Why Resolutions Fail: Do Any of These Sound Familiar?

  • Didn’t write down your goals.
  • That positive mindset you started off with has fizzled and you have traveled back to “Negativetown.”
  • Went back to poor sleeping and recovery habits that snowballed into other poor behaviors because you tend to make bad choices when you are “tired and wired.” 
  • Maybe you didn’t see fast enough results, and during one of your negative self-talks you figured, “What’s the big deal about enjoying that third piece of cake?” Keeping with that mindset, you repeated the above.
  • Don’t have enough time. (This one is my favorite!) You have the same amount of time in the week that more successful people have. So it’s not about time; it’s about prioritization. If you were to say “I suck at managing my life,” that makes a lot more sense than “I don’t have enough time.”

How Do I Get Back on Track?

Hurdles and setbacks are inevitable in anything that we hope to accomplish. The trick is to realize what is not working and do something better! Your life will not change until you change something you do on a daily basis.

  • Assess your wellness and prioritize. Your overall health and wellness encompasses every aspect of your life, and each one exists in a delicate balance. With a strong structure of these aspects, you can weather any storm; but if one is out of alignment, you could topple over. Determine which aspects may need some work and focus on them. 
  • So maybe goal writing isn’t for you. Choose one powerful word to say to yourself every day. It works; trust me.
  • Bottom line: Find a way to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Create a ritual and stick to it.
  • Manage your time. Quick math here: There are 24 hours in a day. If you work 8 hours, and if you get 8 hours of sleep, you have 8 remaining hours. How are you spending those hours? Remove the unproductive things, such as surfing the interwebs or watching TV, and use that time working toward your goals.
  • De-clutter. If your car, office, and house are full of stuff piled up all over the place, it can make managing your life much more difficult. I will give one example: If your kitchen countertops are full of stuff, how amped are you going to be to cook dinner? Clear out the junk to make room for the jewels! 
  • Get a workout buddy to hold you accountable, not one that will take the day off with you at the first sign of struggle. If you need one, let me know, I will be there for you!
  • Binge cook: Plan your food, cook your food, and eat your own food!

Don’t let the statistics get you down. You can make 2018 great by being a better manager of your life. Reassess, realign, and reenergize yourself toward achieving your best year yet!

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, Health Fitness Specialist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here. This blog as been updated. Original blog was posted on

 

Topics: healthy habits fitness center goal setting accountability

Top 3 Tips for Staying Healthy in College

collegeEven though it’s been a few years since I graduated, it still feels like I was just walking through campus and living in the dorm. I absolutely loved college, and while many people gained the freshman 15, I took advantage of the opportunity to live on my own for the first time and make lots of healthy habits that I still follow today. Just because I created healthy habits doesn’t mean I didn’t have an amazing time.

For me, living a balanced life full of fun is essential for being healthy. Here are my top three tips for staying healthy your freshman year and beyond (that leave room for plenty of college-style fun and experiences).

1. Keep a Routine

I am a routine type of girl, but I have come to learn that having a routine is not just a “me” thing. The human body was designed to function on a schedule and to have a routine. Everyone can have a different routine, but I found that I functioned best when I went to bed a little earlier than most people and woke up a little earlier. Of course, I would stay up later on weekends to participate in events, hang out with friends, and attend socials and parties, but I would give myself a curfew (typically midnight) so that I could get some sleep and still feel great the next morning (even after having a great time the night before). The most important thing is to figure out what works for your body and stick to it. 

2. Take Advantage of the Rec/Fitness Center

Most colleges and universities have a fitness center or are affiliated with a fitness center for students to use. Guys, this is a no-brainer! Just go to the rec center or fitness center. These places offer tons of group fitness classes, personal training sessions, and weight and cardio equipment for you to do your own workouts, and they are usually open for the majority of the day. Stop making excuses; find a friend and hit up the rec/fitness center. You’ll thank me once you do!

3. Walk It Out

I went to a small university, so the farthest thing away on campus was typically a 10-minute walk. That’s it! I would only use my car if I had to take a large load somewhere or if I was leaving campus, which was very rare. Walking is amazing for the body because it gets the body moving, but it doesn’t put a lot of stress on the muscles and joints. Walking as your form of transportation is a habit that you can start during your college days and then continue throughout the rest of your life! Seriously, just walk. You’ll feel great and those freshman 15 pounds will stay far away. 

Of course, there are tons of other things you can do to stay healthy in college; these are just a few for you to start with! 

Let’s hear from you below in the comment section. What are some of your favorite ways to stay healthy?

This blog was written by Tara Deal Rochford, contributing writer, group fitness instructor, and author of healthy living blog Treble in the Kitchen. Meet our other NIFS bloggers.

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Topics: healthy habits fitness center walking sleep college

Top 5 Tips for Morning Workouts

466265051As a natural-born morning person, many people frequently ask what my secret is for bursts of energy before the sun rises. While I may naturally be a morning person, there are a few things that I do in order to guarantee a successful morning workout because, believe it or not, there are times that even I find it hard to drag my bod to the gym to start my day.

Here are my top 5 tips that will prepare you for a successful morning workout.

1. Plan it into your schedule. 

Personally, I can’t just wake up and “wing it” when it comes to my workouts. I need to have something planned ahead of time. Whether it’s meeting a friend for a workout, taking my favorite group fitness class, or planning out a treadmill run, taking the guessing game out of my morning workout gives me something to look forward to and helps me mentally prepare the evening before.

2. Lay out your clothes and anything you need for the next day the night before.

Even though I may be a morning person, it still takes me a bit longer to do things first thing in the morning. Also, if I have my clothes (shoes, socks, and undies included!) already laid out, I feel like there are no excuses keeping me from the gym if I wake up feeling a little less than motivated. If I am going somewhere after the gym (like straight to work), I make sure to have all bags packed, ready to go, and laying by the door so I don’t have to do any extra work when I first wake up.

3. Pack/plan breakfast.

For me, I always eat a little bite of something before my early morning workouts. Despite my little pre-workout snack, I am almost always starving by the end of my morning workout and I’m ready for an actual meal. Packing a breakfast (something like overnight oats or hard-boiled eggs and fruit) allows me to get the nutrients I need to start my day so that I keep that energized feeling going throughout the day. Having a healthy breakfast packed and ready to go also helps me avoid less healthy yet ultra convenient breakfast options.

4. Go to bed early.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but I honestly think it’s the most important thing on the list. Sleep is so, so important, and if you stay up late or get inadequate sleep, you won’t be doing your body any favors. Getting enough shut-eye will ensure that you are strong for your morning workout and in a great mood throughout the rest of the day.

5. Remember how great you will feel AFTER.

You know that feeling you get after a super-sweaty workout—energized from the inside out, that slight shake in the muscles as a little reminder of the hard work you put in, and you look at the clock and realize most people haven’t even eaten breakfast yet! For me, that feeling of “getting it done” before the day has even started is invaluable. Now, when you come home exhausted from a draining day at work, you can kick back and relax without a hint of guilt.

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This blog was written by Tara Deal Rochford, contributing writer, group fitness instructor, and author of healthy living blog Treble in the Kitchen. Meet our other NIFS bloggers.

Topics: healthy habits motivation workouts attitude

Healthy Eating in a Hurry

stacked-fridgePicture this for a minute, if you are so kind to indulge me. It is 7am on any given Monday, and you hop out of bed, just realizing that you are late for your morning rituals (probably because you hit the snooze seven times). You rush to get ready for work, dress quickly, and run out the door just as fast (skipping breakfast in the process).

You run into the office and jump right into the stress that is referred to as “Monday,” trying to feel as if you have caught up to the day, but you really haven’t. You bust butt all day to get things done hour after hour until your weekday is complete. Then, it is off to the gym to brutalize your body, performing the latest and greatest YouTube training session that results in you lying flat on your back, defeated.

But you forgot one thing: You forgot to eat! Or, you stopped by the nearest vending machine or drive-thru, leaving you feeling like crap and tired, so you can dart home to crash so you can start the cycle all over again tomorrow. Or, you got home and ate everything but your hand because you were so ravenous you couldn’t be stopped. These scenarios are not going to lead to positive balance of your life, and certainly will not provide the health and fitness goals many of us are after.

Sound familiar? I hope not, but for a lot of people it probably does. Due to lack of planning and preparation in the scenario above, the individual described is starving and doing some pretty big harm to both the physical and mental being. You can get back to healthy eating by adopting a practice affectionately known in my house as “Binge Cooking,” or weekly food prep. This usually is completed on a Sunday, and takes only a few hours of the day, especially if you streamline the process and have a solid plan of attack.

The ultimate goal of binge cooking is to ensure ample food to cover you throughout the week. You will find that in doing so, not only will you be eating so much better (which is step 1 in any fitness and health-related goal), you will create more balance and find a lot more extra time to focus on bigger and brighter aspects of your life.

We will cover more of this balance-creating blueprint in future posts; now let’s talk cooking! Here are some tips that will make your weekly food prep go much smoother and quicker and be much more enjoyable!

Get Your Mind Right

You have to believe that this is a great opportunity to be healthy and create positive change in your life. If you enter this process feeling it is only a chore, the chance of you faltering and giving up increases exponentially! And I bet your food won’t taste as good, either!

Get the Menu Planned

Know what you want to eat, and what will be the most appropriate for you to eat for each meal, before starting your cooking. Of course this will ensure that you will have food for each meal, but it will also make the cooking process more efficient. You can be doing two things at once, or cutting up everything at once instead of hopping all over the place. Have a plan, and work the plan.

Get the Food

You can’t cook without food, so make it a priority to hit the grocery store and pick up the supplies you will need. I am not going to tell you what to pick up, but I would recommend choosing whole foods as your staples and staying away from processed items. Have your list handy so you don’t forget anything, or pick up items you don’t need.

Get the Right Hardware

Great cookware is awesome to have available, but really anything will do; just have the necessary tools ready to go. Referencing your menu and food list will point you in the right direction as to what you need to prepare all of your food choices. Have it ready, and be ready to use it!

Get the Proper Storage

After all the prep work and cooking are complete, you are going to need to store the food so it is ready to go when you are. Think individual portions when loading your storage containers for all of your meals. With that being said, because portion sizes tend to be too large for most, have more small containers than large. It will help keep you on track as well as make storing and carrying easier. Spend some time on this step; it will be one of the most important!

Get Help

If you are thinking to yourself, “This all sounds great for you, but you don’t have any kids.” You are right, I don’t. Make them part of the process. From the get-go, they can help you plan the meals, go shopping with you, and help prepare and store the wonderful foods you have created together. There are some huge positives happening there: learning about proper nutrition, budgeting, being amongst other humans, and most importantly spending time with the people you care most about.

I think the tried-and-true saying works best here, and that “failing to plan is planning to fail.” Take some relatively easy steps to ensure your nutrition stays the course throughout the week (and weekend, for that matter). You will find when you plan well for the big things, such as your nutrition, the smaller things will take care of themselves. When attempting to create some balance in your life, tackle the big things first!

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, Health Fitness Specialist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy habits healthy eating

Learn About Cardiovascular Health During American Heart Month

heart-1There is no better time to get your cardiovascular health on track than right now, during heart health month! February is American Heart Month, and a time that the CDC is trying to help us be aware that heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure are the number-one killers of men and women. Heart disease can be scary, and although not 100% preventable in all cases, it is reassuring to know that there are thing we can do to prevent it.

Who Is at Risk for Heart Disease?

Let’s start by taking a look at understanding who is at risk for heart disease and how it can play out in your life. First off, the number of preventable deaths has gone down in recent years, but is still at an alarming number. What most of us know is that if we have a close relative who has died from cardiovascular disease, it does put us at a higher risk for getting it later in life.

Here are some things maybe you didn’t know:

  • Men are more than twice as likely as women to die from preventable heart disease.
  • Health disparities based on geography also contribute to it (in previous years, deaths due to heart disease were highest in the south and lowest in the west).
  • Race can affect your risk level. Nearly half of African American men and women have some form of heart disease, and the American Heart Association also tells us that African Americans are more likely than any other ethnic group to have high blood pressure and to develop it earlier in life.

Many of these things can be prevented by healthier habits and management of conditions.

Preventing Heart Disease

The good news is that there are some things that we can do to help prevent heart disease. Being active and exercising on a regular basis is one of the biggest things that can help! Exercising for 30 minutes a day on most days of the week and maintaining a healthy weight makes the payoff even greater. You want to have a healthy mixture of both cardiovascular exercise as well as weight training and strength training to keep yourself in tip-top shape.

Another big contributor that can help is to not smoke or chew tobacco. Chemicals in tobacco damage the blood vessels of the heart, narrow the arteries, and could lead to a heart attack.

Eating a diet that is heart healthy is also important. Foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains help reduce your potential risk factor as well as keeping to a low-fat diet and eating good sources of protein like chicken and fish. Getting enough sleep and keeping a low level of stress is one of the most manageable factors in heart health.

And lastly, be sure to get regular health screenings to monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and sugar levels to steer clear of diabetes and other health issues.

Managing Cardiovascular Disease

FEAR NOT! If you already have cardiovascular disease, there are still things you can do to help slow down the progress of it. Though things may seem a bit more difficult after suffering a heart attack, coronary heart disease, a blocked artery, or other cardiovascular problem, it’s vital to your health to work on many of the things listed above. Even with heart disease, things like exercising on a regular basis, maintaining healthy eating habits, keeping a healthy body weight, not smoking or using tobacco, and watching those “numbers” at the doctor’s office can significantly aid in your heart health.

Be sure to consult your cardiologist before putting an exercise plan into place in case you have any restrictions, but get started on your new way of life ASAP! And most importantly, be aware of your condition, take time to learn about it so that you can manage it the best way possible.

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


Topics: healthy habits heart disease cardiovascular

American Heart Month: Preventing and Living with Cardiovascular Disease

There is no better time to get your heart health on track than right now, during heart health month! February is American Heart Month, and a time that the CDC is trying to help us be aware that heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure are the number-one killers of men and women. Heart disease can be scary, and although not 100% preventable in all cases, it is reassuring to know that we can help ourselves to keep it away.

Who Is at Risk for Heart Disease? heart

Let’s start by taking a look at understanding who is at risk for heart disease and how it can play out in your life. First off, the number of preventable deaths has gone down in recent years, but is still at an alarming number. What most of us know is that if we have a close relative who has died from cardiovascular disease, it does put us at a higher risk for getting it later in life.

Here are some things maybe you didn’t know:

  • Men are more than twice as likely as women to die from preventable heart disease.
  • Health disparities based on geography also contribute to it (in previous years, deaths due to heart disease were highest in the south and lowest in the west). Race can affect your risk level.
  • Nearly half of African American men and women have some form of heart disease, and the American Heart Association also tells us that African Americans are more likely than any other ethnic group to have high blood pressure and to develop it earlier in life.

Many of these things can be prevented by healthier habits and management of conditions.

Preventing Heart Disease

The good news is that there are some things that we can do to help prevent heart disease. Being active and exercising on a regular basis is one of the biggest things that can help! Exercising for 30 minutes a day on most days of the week and maintaining a healthy weight makes the payoff even greater. You want to have a healthy mixture of both cardiovascular exercise as well as weight training and strength training to keep yourself in tip-top shape.

Another big contributor that can help is to not smoke or chew tobacco. Chemicals in tobacco damage the blood vessels of the heart, narrow the arteries, and could lead to a heart attack.

Eating a diet that is heart healthy is also important. Foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains help reduce your potential risk factor as well as keeping to a low-fat diet and eating good sources of protein like chicken and fish. Getting enough sleep and keeping a low level of stress is one of the most manageable factors in heart health.

And lastly, be sure to get regular health screenings to monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and sugar levels to steer clear of diabetes and other health issues.

Managing Cardiovascular Disease

FEAR NOT! If you already have cardiovascular disease, there are still things you can do to help slow down the progress of it. Though things may seem a bit more difficult after suffering a heart attack, coronary heart disease, a blocked artery, or other cardiovascular problem, it’s vital to your health to work on many of the things listed above. Even with heart disease, things like exercising on a regular basis, maintaining healthy eating habits, keeping a healthy body weight, not smoking or using tobacco, and watching those “numbers” at the doctor’s office can significantly aid in your heart health.

Be sure to consult your cardiologist before putting an exercise plan into place in case you have any restrictions, but get started on your new way of life ASAP! And most importantly, be aware of your condition, take time to learn about it so that you can manage it the best way possible.

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

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Topics: healthy habits heart attack disease prevention heart disease cardiovascular

Should You Work Out When You’re Sick?

482395581This is the time of year when everyone seems to be getting sick. A head cold, the flu, a constant cough, a sore throat, chest cold, sinus infection…you name it, it’s around. I know when I am under the weather, one question that comes to my mind is, “Should I work out, or should I just let my body rest for a few days?”

For the avid exerciser, a few days may seem like months taken off your performance. There are lots of ways to look at this topic, and truly I think it depends on what type of illness you have. But let’s take a look at a few things to help you determine whether working out while you are ill is a good idea or a bad one.

Definite No:

  • If you have a fever, you should definitely skip the workout. When you have a fever, raising your internal body temperature through working out can make you even sicker, so stay home and lay low. Typically, you are contagious for 5 to 7 days when you have a fever, so steer clear of the gym.
  • If you are vomiting or have diarrhea, do not work out. This is the time that it’s most important to stay in bed and rest.
  • According to an article in Men’s Fitness, if you are starting to feel sick and end up feeling worse after you complete your workout, cut back and take a break.

Possibly Yes:

  • If you have a runny nose or just a sniffle, it’s most likely okay to work out. The Mayo Clinic says exercise may even make you feel better by opening up your nasal passages and help relieve nasal congestion.
  • Dr. Neil Schachter, a physician from Mt. Sinai Medical Center, has a good method to help determine whether you can work out. It’s called the Neck Check. If your symptoms are above the neck, including a sore throat, nasal congestion, sneezing, and watery eyes, you are okay to exercise. Exercise does raise the body’s immune system, helping to defend it and fight off illness.

The most important thing to do is listen to your body. If you cannot do something, then it is important to stop and don’t try to force yourself to keep going. Know that it is okay to not work out for a few days if you are sick; sometimes resting the body is the answer. Oftentimes the human body gets run down, lowering the immune system, and causing you to get sick in the first place.

If you do choose to work out, just play it smart. Maybe consider a walk instead of a hard run, or a light bike instead of heavy weightlifting. The most important thing is to get healthy again so you can get back to your routine, so do what your body is asking you to do!

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

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Topics: healthy habits workouts illness immunity