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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Have You Gained Weight Since the Start of the COVID-19 Pandemic?

GettyImages-1286893989According to the American Psychological Association’s latest Stress in America™ survey conducted in late February 2021, 42% of adults reported undesirable weight gain since the beginning of the pandemic, with an average weight gain of 29 pounds. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to many, since almost everyone was stuck at home, the gyms were closed, and people turned to food for comfort.

Six Tips for Losing Pandemic Weight

If you’re struggling to manage your weight following the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdown, and restrictions, try some of the following suggestions for getting back on track.

1. Establish a healthy eating routine.

Aim to eat three well-rounded meals each day. Meals don’t have to be complicated: the easier and quicker, the better. Try pairing a protein source (such as chicken, salmon, or ground turkey or lean beef) with various grilled, roasted, or steamed vegetables and seasonings and sauces of your choice for a quick, inexpensive, and easy meal.

2. Count calories.

The only tried-and-true method for losing weight is to eat fewer calories than you expend each day. Often when people eat healthy but don’t count calories, they tend to overestimate the number of calories they expend and underestimate the number of calories they eat, leading to weight gain/maintenance and frustration. To determine your individualized caloric needs, speak with a registered dietitian or get an estimate from the USDA’S DRI Calculator for Healthcare Professionals.

3. Stay active.

Fifty-three percent of adults reported that they have been less physically active than they would prefer since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Stress in America™ survey. Physical activity is a great method for managing weight and stress, and has even been shown to improve sleep. If you don’t feel comfortable going to the gym, take a walk outside. If you’re not able to safely walk outside, create your own walking route inside your home or apartment and take several brief walks throughout the day to keep moving. Try to incorporate at least 30 minutes of physical activity into your routine every day.

4. Limit alcohol consumption.

According to the Stress in America™ survey, 23 percent of adults reported drinking more alcohol during the pandemic as a coping mechanism for stress. The calories in alcohol tend to add up quickly, and too much alcohol can lead to unhealthy habits like overeating. To prevent alcohol-associated weight gain, be sure to drink in moderation, which is defined as no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.

5. Manage stress.

There is evidence to suggest that increased cortisol, the hormone released during stress, may result in an increased appetite, leading to overeating and potential weight gain. Instead of turning to food for comfort, be sure to control stress through mindfulness and meditation, exercise, and social support.

6. Get enough sleep.

The Stress in America™ poll also found that 35 percent of adults noted getting less sleep since the start of the pandemic. Sleep plays an important role in losing weight, as inadequate or poor-quality sleep can affect the hormones that control hunger and satiety, may result in less energy for exercise, and could make you more susceptible to making poor food choices. The National Sleep Foundation recommends between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night for most adults.

Weight-loss Help from NIFS

NIFS can guide you in your weight-loss journey. Our popular Ramp Up to Weight Loss program has been adapted so that you can participate virtually from home  or at NIFS.

Find out more about Ramp Up to Weight Loss. Contact us today!

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

Topics: stress weight loss calories alcohol covid-19 lockdown pandemic

Get Back on Track with Fitness Motivation Habits in the New Year

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When we began the early stages of the pandemic lockdown, the sidewalks were full of runners and walkers, and living rooms were a blur of new spin bikes and uncoordinated bodyweight lunges. Out of boredom from being home, I would bet physical activity levels were peaking right before restrictions began to be eased this summer.

Like a New Year’s resolution, motivation to exercise has gradually faded. It was a lot easier to exercise when you had only two choices during this pandemic, stay at home all day or get out and get moving. But now, after months of shifting social restrictions, many have lost their motivation to exercise again.

Five Quick Motivation Fixes

Here are some quick fixes to help get back on track with ways to improve your fitness motivation in the New Year.

Plan your exercise for when it’s easiest to do and then treat your workouts like appointments.

This might mean exercising as soon as you get up in the morning, like me, or mid-afternoon or after a day of work at home. Whenever you start your workout for the day, before temptations and obstacles begin, be organized and have a routine. Do not miss your workout session; going in with the mindset that you have to accomplish it is an excellent way to increase adherence and motivation.

Make it easy to exercise.

Do not make it a challenge to plan exercise ahead of time. For example, I lay out and pack up my workout gear in the evening as to be ready for when I go off in the morning. Do as many things as you can beforehand so that, when the time comes, starting your workout is easy. Break the process of exercising into chunks and then maximize your workout time:

  • Step 1, requiring a little bit of effort: Get changed into workout gear.
  • Step 2: Step out the door and on your way to your planned workout.

Before you know it, it’s harder to not exercise than to exercise.

Reduce your time.

Workouts shouldn’t take hours on end. No one has the time or motivation to be stuck working that long. Instead, change up your workouts with supersets. A superset is two or more exercises stacked together with little or no rest between them to create a more efficient workout. It’s your best friend during workouts because it helps you get more done in less time.

Ideal for building strength, pair two or more exercises that work opposing muscle groups, like Chest Press and Bent-over Rows.

While working the same muscle groups, for example Squats and Glute-Bridges, compound sets work on muscle endurance and are great for improving muscle definition.

Lastly, if you are working two different muscle groups like lower- and upper-body, this is considered a circuit. It’s great for burning fat. An example would be a push-up and squat, row and lunge, or RDL and Triceps Pushdowns.

Get excited to go shopping!

A huge motivation is to buy a new piece of workout gear. Get yourself excited to get back into exercise by buying something you’ve been eyeing. Workout gear could be anything, as long as it gets you excited to use it: a new watch with a GPS tracker, new workout clothes and running shoes, or even a new jump rope or dumbbells for your home gym.

Do what you enjoy.

If you find yourself wanting to jump rope or take a fitness class instead of doing burpees and bench press, it’s better to do what you want to do. Keeping it simple requires a lot less mental effort and requires minimal motivation. Repeat exercises that felt good and don’t try to force yourself to do something you think you should do.

A New Start for 2021

While many of us aren’t looking forward to further social restrictions, this New Year will give you another opportunity to develop a healthier lifestyle. If you don’t know the exercise lingo I used or you are a novice at working out, talk with a personal trainer or fitness professional who can help you put together workouts that are time efficient and effective routines that you’ll enjoy. By making some of the easy changes I have suggested, you can make enormous improvements in your motivation as we head into the New Year.

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This blog was written by Michael Blume, MS, SCCC; Athletic Performance Coach. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: healthy habits motivation resolutions personal training new year's superset covid-19 lockdown

Returning to Play and Activity Safely After Quarantine

GettyImages-1014940186The uncertainty of the last few months has taken a toll both mentally and physically on everyone. Many people did not have access to gyms and instead did at-home bodyweight workouts or virtual workouts—or did nothing at all. As time has passed, we are now returning to gyms and everyday normal lives. Returning to play and activity must be done in a strategic way. Going all out upon return can lead to many detrimental effects on the body. Making sure to take proper steps back into working out is vital to your body and your overall health. Sleep paired with hydration and a balanced diet will aid in the process of coming back stronger and more efficient. Taking a slow approach will also allow your body to get acclimated much more easily and quickly.

Safely Returning to Activities

You should return to play and activity with moderation. Jumping right back into the gym 5-6 times a week will lead to overtraining and other soft-tissue injuries. Trying to max out upon return after not lifting heavy weights is another challenge that will lead to injury or worse. Gradually getting back into the swing of things is the way to go, and will lead to the safest and most effective return.

Starting with bodyweight exercises and lighter weight is a great way to return. Focusing on form and taking the time to relearn movement patterns is another safe, effective tool to use. This is a great time to identify other imbalances you might have neglected before, or things that were brought about by the pandemic. Giving you the best possible options will not only help with longevity, but will also help with overall quality of life. 

There Is No Rush to the Finish Line

During lockdown, your focus should have been on trying to maintain a healthy, balanced diet and staying as physically active as you possibly could. I know times were hard and days were long, but it shouldn’t have derailed all the hard work you put in before the pandemic hit. That is why it is essential to take proper steps to gradually get back and acclimated to the weight room. Continue to set goals. Keep them within reason. There is no rush in achieving them. Staying healthy and creating longevity is the name of the game.

If your numbers are way down since the pandemic, trust that the process will lead you right back where you were and beyond. Find alternatives and alternative exercises that will gradually get you back into the swing of things. For example, if you love the squat, find other squat variations that will keep you healthy as you gradually work your way back to heavy squatting. Goblet squats are a great alternative. Cyclist squats are another great tool for developing the quadriceps. Utilize the TRX; it is a great functional piece that will aid in your return to play and activity.

Enjoy Being Back Outdoors and at the Gym

Staying healthy during this time is the ultimate goal. Doing it safely and properly is the way to go. Utilize your trainers and dietitians to help you on your journey. Never hesitate to ask professionals for advice on returning to the gym. We love seeing you back as much as you love being back. Continuing to practice safe and effective training methods with proper sleep and nutrition will make for a great rest of the year!

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This blog was written by Jason Quarles, IUPUI Athletic Performance Coach. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: exercise at home injury prevention weight lifting overtraining bodyweight quarantine covid-19 lockdown

Lockdown Lessons: Learning from a Crisis

GettyImages-823912910Daily, life provides countless learning opportunities that, if processed properly, can make us strong individuals capable of accomplishing extraordinary things. Some lessons stem from positive experiences in our lives, but I think the strongest lessons are derived from strife, hardship, and even failure. These lessons can hurt, and you can either live in the pain or learn from it. We are currently living a life full of learning opportunities that have and will continue to test our ability to grow.

I have learned so much during this time of crisis—about facets of daily life and of my profession, about myself and about people. In one of my recent posts outlining ways to “pivot” during stressful times, I encouraged you to write down and define a list of things you are grateful for. That same activity can be applied to lessons you learn each day. Take a moment daily, or weekly, to write down a few lessons that challenged you and how you learned from them. If you think about it, you should ink it for self-processing and to refer to later.

Here is a brief list of some of the greater lockdown lessons I have learned and have grown from.

I Don’t Hate Working from Home

In the past, I have always thought I would hate having a home office and not going to a physical place of work. Being in the people business and with the multitude of distractions that home life can add to your workday, I didn’t think I could be as productive, or that I would enjoy it. Now don’t get me wrong, I am counting the minutes until I can be back with people; that’s who I am. But I really don’t hate working from home right now. There is freedom in it, and it has provided ample time to really focus and get things done. It has helped harness my self-discipline, creativity, and a balance of work and life duties. I found some key behaviors to get the most out of your day working from home:

  • Keep a schedule: The early bird gets the worm. This goes for eating, too.
  • Dress up to show up: Get cleaned up and put on some proper attire.
  • Designate a work area: That is where you put in work.
  • Get up and move around often: I rotate work and chores to stay fresh.
  • Work out: Duh, exercise is crucial no matter where you are working from.
  • Don’t eat and work: Enjoy the quick break.
  • Log what you do: Some people are required to do this, but I think it’s a great reflection tool as well.
  • Shut it down: When your day is over, shut it down.

A New Appreciation for the Breadth of Social Media and Technology as an Educational and Behavioral Tool

I still consider myself quite the caveman when it comes to social media and all the technology that connects us as a community. But I have learned so much in a short time about so many ways I can affect others’ lives using many technological and media applications. From Zoom workout sessions to the many ways to post on all social media channels, there are countless ways to funnel information and great content to the masses. And although nothing can replace the feeling of connecting with someone in person, these tools provide a close second to reaching people. The strategies I have learned during this time using technology and social media will be used far after the lockdown is over and have made me a better fitness professional to serve people.

Great People Show Up in a Crisis

A crisis can bring out the best or the worst in people, but great people show up no matter the situation. Health care workers, first responders, and officials on the front line of the pandemic are owed our deepest gratitude for the work that they do. But I am also referring to coworkers, family members, and friends. Great people relish challenges and step up to provide solutions and take action to complete tasks and help others. I’ve learned a lot about many folks during this time, and that most people want to help as much as they can and find ways to do so. Your instructors and professionals at NIFS have answered the call and are proof that great people show up.

Fitness Matters

Once the stay-at-home order was set, it was amazing to see how many people were clamoring for ways to get their fitness fix. Fitness continues to be a huge part of so many lives, and as a fitness professional it was awesome to witness how important fitness and our industry are to people. Physical activity and exercise are still, and will always be, the best medicines to prevent and treat serious illnesses. I have seen so many stories of people who are healthy because of regular physical activity beat COVID-19 into submission.

Not only that, the response of so many people who wanted—nay, needed—to work out either virtually with others or family time fitness had been huge. Countless posts of people being active flooded social media, and folks flocked to virtual training sessions. It is not a new lesson to me that physical activity is the answer for so many things in our lives. It was great to learn that so many have heard the message and will do anything to get and remain active.

Adapt and Adjust

Don’t be that person who is the first to complain about a situation and the last to do something about it. We are going to encounter so many more challenges in our lives, both big and small, and the ability to adapt and adjust will be a lesson we use forever. Having the strength and grit to pivot and find ways to thrive during adversity are attributes that I believe are fortified during a crisis or negative situation.

The strategies and positive approaches you learn to implement during strife will pay huge dividends further down the road, whereas allowing the situation to consume you coupled with a negative mindset will lead to greater hardships even from smaller issues. Staying positive and taking time to think about how to adapt is how you learn to take on anything that may stand in your way. Taking action right away and not sitting on your hands waiting for something or someone to bail you out can be hard at times, but will be the only sure way to make it through and be a better version of yourself.    

School Is Always in Session

Last lesson: school is always in session, kids. Lessons can be found in any situation, and it will be those lessons that will serve you the rest of your life in great times and crisis. We will get through this; but “will you be new and improved because of it?” is the question. We will all need to learn a new way of living, at least for a little while. Find those lessons that are waiting for you and be a lifelong learner.

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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: exercise at home attitude technology mindset social media quarantine covid-19 lockdown work at home personal growth

Putting Yourself First: Healthy Habits for the Pandemic (Part 1 of 2)

GettyImages-1024725422There are no definitive right answers on how we are supposed to individually succeed during a pandemic. We all cope, struggle, and win the day in our own ways. We can all feel a little lost and confused at times, and that’s completely normal as we cross bridges into territory we have never experienced in our lives.

This idea makes you wonder, “am I doing this right” and “what should I be doing?” It’s not easy to answer because we are challenged in new ways daily. Sometimes it’s as simple as being motivated to wake up in the morning at your normal time, and other times it’s making sure that all your work is getting completed. Each person has their own daily cup, and filling this cup with what makes the most sense with both work and personal life fulfillment is what should be expected of all of us. This is a form of “putting yourself first.”

In this two-part blog, I cover several topics and ideas that will help you in making better, more healthful decisions.

Keep to a Routine and Manage Your Setup

During this extended home lockdown, we tend to find ourselves with a lot of time on our hands. Work-from-home is being done from makeshift offices, and sometimes we are cutting corners here and there. One area where we can focus our energy for the good is our daily routines. Your daily routine of getting up for the day, eating meals, and exercise should mimic your normal daily routines; however, having your living space and workspace together can be a challenge. Find ways to allow your house to multitask with you. Have a place where you do your work, but also places where you can escape to rest, recover, and breathe.

Lawrence Biscontini, a world-renowned award-winning fitness professional, uses the following acronym to describe how you can promote self-care at your residence.

  • H—Your Hearth: This is where you find rest and recovery and refill your energy. Your bedroom sanctuary, free from all distraction and full of purposeful R and R.
  • O—Your Outside: How you connect with others and communicate.
  • M—Your Mission Control: Your home office and workstation, a place dedicated to getting your work completed. Your workspace is professional.
  • E—Eat: Refueling the body with nutritious food, free of social and outside distraction.

Get Better Sleep

The next topic, which is well documented and researched, is sleep habits and how to get better, healthier rest. In past NIFS blog posts by Cara Hartman, Hannah Peters, and several others, we see that sleep is extremely important and seemingly simple to master. However, with all the distractions that can come from lockdown (not to mention our insatiable love for technology), we find it tougher and tougher to get exactly what we need every day. Check out Cara’s blog on sleep habits, explaining what gets you to that bedtime in no time.

Keep Your Cup Full

Focusing on yourself is important. Your daily cup needs to be full enough so that you can do your job, help others, and enjoy life. In part 2 of this blog, I continue and conclude this discussion. Remember, take it one day at a time, taking care of yourself as a priority. Finally, when it comes time to meet again, NIFS and NIFS staff will be ready (we hope you are too!). Take care, and muscleheads rejoice and evolve.

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: healthy habits Thomas' Corner sleep self-care quarantine lockdown work at home pandemic