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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

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

Spring Forward with Quick, Healthy Breakfasts

GettyImages-901234842Daylight Saving Time is coming, and with that we lose an hour of sleep. Studies have shown that the week following springing forward, car accidents increase by 20 percent. Cardiovascular events also increase, with a 24 percent higher incidence of heart attacks the Monday following Daylight Saving Time. In addition to an increase in accidents and heart attacks, people are also suffering from not only losing that one hour of sleep from Saturday into Sunday morning, but for up to a week Americans can lose 40 to 50 minutes of sleep per night due to their sleep/wake cycle being thrown off.

One of the main excuses people give for skipping breakfast is time. Now add in almost an hour of lost sleep, and that week following Daylight Saving could be a week of running late and missing breakfast, or the temptation to stop at the drive-through lane. Instead, here are some quick and easy breakfasts that can be useful for Daylight Saving or anytime throughout the year.

Egg Muffins

Ingredients:

12 eggs
½ tsp seasoned salt
2 to 3 TB diced onion
1 cup cooked diced or crumbled ham, bacon, or sausage
Pepper to taste
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ cup diced red bell pepper
¼ cup sautéed and diced mushrooms
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
½ cup shredded baby spinach

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs. Add remaining ingredients and mix together.
  4. Scoop ⅓ cup of mixture into each muffin cup. Bake 20–25 minutes or until the center of the muffin is completely cooked.

Baked Apple Cinnamon Steel-Cut Oats

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp butter 
2 cups steel-cut oats 
4 cups boiling water 
2 tsp cinnamon 
3 apples, peeled and diced 
¼ cup brown sugar 
1 tsp salt 
2½ cups milk 

Brown sugar, maple syrup, fruit, nuts (optional toppings)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease a 9 x 13-inch pan.
  2. Melt butter in skillet and add oats. Stir until lightly toasted.
  3. Put oats in a large mixing bowl and pour boiling water over them. Add apples, cinnamon, brown sugar, and salt and stir until combined. Add milk and stir.
  4. Pour into prepared dish and bake 50–60 minutes or until browned and set.
  5. Stir oatmeal before serving and then add toppings as desired.

Peanut Butter and Banana Smoothie

Ingredients:

2 overripe, frozen large bananas
4–6 TB peanut butter or Pb2 (powdered peanut butter)
1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
1 cup milk
optional ⅓ cup quick oats or rolled oats

Instructions:

  1. Blend the oats until a fine powder forms, then add all remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.
  2. Drink immediately, or store in a covered container in the refrigerator if you make the smoothie the night before.

Makes 2 servings.

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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: healthy eating recipes breakfast sleep protein

Wood Chipper: How to Be More Efficient, Productive, and Successful

GettyImages-455422071I was recently chatting with my brother Tim about work stuff in a conversation filled with multiple shop-talk topics. You see, he is an assistant chief of a pretty large fire department, and we share common goals and challenges when it comes to managing a crew. Needless to say, our conversations can get quite lively and the ideas are always abundant.

Enter the Wood Chipper: Getting Things Done Fast

During this particular conversation he used a phrase that I absolutely loved (and actually told him I will be stealing): he referred to someone he works with as a “Wood Chipper.” If you are like me, you immediately imagine a large piece of wood being thrown into a box filled with super sharp blades and being spit out the other end in a different form—in this case, a million pieces of shredded wood.

Mind you, Tim was using “wood chipper” as a compliment about this person’s ability to get things done, and quickly. The analogy of taking on a task (feeding the wood chipper) and spitting out a completed product quickly, and to the specs that you are given, is a great strategy in being successful in anything that you do. Working at a task with the voracity of a well-oiled wood chipper means that you don’t delay and you take the necessary steps to complete the task using the resources (blades) you have available to you.

5 Strategies to Help Earn the Nickname “The Wood Chipper”

Do you want to be known for speed and efficiency in your life? Here are five strategies for tearing through tasks like a machine.

  • Focus on the most important thing and the most important time: Not all tasks are created equal, and some carry more weight than others. The best first step is focusing on the most important thing that will lead to success in all other steps, or even eliminate them as unnecessary. This prioritization takes some skill to harness, but just like any skill you can train it by making it a habit. Start by asking yourself often “what is the most important thing I can do right now?” Laser focus on the most important thing and the most important time!
  • Tackle the big stuff first: The stuff that scares you should be done first. Don’t get bogged down by the small, tedious tasks that make you feel busy. Being busy is not the same as being productive. Put most of your energy into the big-ticket items right away and you might find that many of those smaller tasks get completed as well, or don’t even matter.
  • Say “No” more: In their best-selling book and popular website, The One Thing, authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan discuss the power of the ability to say no and how it leads to greater success. Do you say “yes” to not feel bad? Does saying “yes” take away from family and friends, personal wellness, and rest? We must break the habit of saying “yes” to everything and only saying “yes” to the most important thing. Trust me, it’s okay. Because the bottom line is that not creating boundaries will only lead to more obstacles.
  • Stop trying to multitask: If you agree with the first of these five strategies (not all things are created equal), the idea of multitasking should seem goofy. I believe the old saying goes, “A man who chases two rabbits (it could be bunnies) catches neither.” Simply put, if you attempt to put in equal amounts of effort for all of your “things” at the same time, the result will be equally insufficient. Give all your focus to one thing at a time, complete it, then move on. This is science, people. Research has shown that humans can’t focus on more than one thing at a time, and those who multitask are shown to be less productive. What is the most important thing? Focus on that one thing, and then move on.
  • Get some sleep: This seems a bit out of place considering the other four strategies listed here, but it plays, I think, just as big a role. Create a habit of getting at least 7 to 8 hours a night so that you are fresh to make that decision about what is the most important thing to be focusing on. We have covered the importance of sleep in previous posts, so simply put, IT’S SUPER IMPORTANT! Sleep can effect so many functions we rely on, so create the habit of getting more sleep. Here is one strategy to help create a successful sleep habit: turn off the electronics early and go lie down!

Put a few of these strategies into place and start “wood chipping” your way to success. Focus on one thing, the most important thing, at one time and see how productive you become.

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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: sleep productivity goals prioritization

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 Technology Use: 5 Steps to Controlling Your Cell Phone

GettyImages-1000997882Think for a minute. When was the last time you intended to go to bed early only to “check your feed” one last time, then suddenly—BAM!—you have lost 30 minutes to Facebook? Or when you were talking with a friend only to be distracted by the all-too-familiar “bing” of your phone alerting you to a new message that you just had to peek at?

The Struggle Against Technology Obsession Is Real

Cell phones are great tools, and I think we can all agree they are not going anywhere. The need to put them in their respective places, however, has become increasingly important as we struggle with the distractions of technology.

Focus determines many things in our lives and is necessary to accomplish goals, both in our careers and in our personal lives. Putting the emphasis back on these aspirations and not allowing oneself to be interrupted with the bells and whistles of technology is, at best, a struggle.

Five Steps to Get Control Over Your Phone Use

So how can you take back control? Start by trying these five simple tips:

  • Put it out of reach. Out of sight, out of mind. When driving, put the phone in the backseat or in the glove compartment where you can’t reach it. Seriously. Whatever it takes for you not to pick the phone up while you’re driving.
  • Focus on people. Mealtimes are for enjoying good food and catching up with family and friends. Don’t bring the cell phone to the table. Turn the ringer off and put it in a pocket or purse where you can’t see the screen. Whether you are at home or in a restaurant, focus on the person across the table from you. They must be pretty important if you are sharing a meal with them.
  • Put your phone to bed at a decent time. If you go to bed at 11pm, tuck the phone in at 10:30. Give yourself at least 30 minutes of no cell phone usage before going to bed. The blue light a cell phone gives off is much like daylight and can trigger the brain to stay awake. Although most phones have a “night shift” feature, picking up the phone right before bed may also trigger you to check emails and social media, which makes it harder to turn off your brain and go to sleep.
  • Do something you love. Remember all of the great things you used to do before you got a cell phone—and do them! Yes, younger generation, I am talking to you, too! What do you love? Sports, music, painting, writing, cooking? This list can go on and on. None of these things require a cell phone, and they never did. Get back to the things you love to do that make you who you are. Be present in what you are doing and enjoy!
  • Turn it off. You can stop lots of issues with just a click of the button. No one said owning a cell phone was a 24/7 job. Turn it off when you need or want to truly focus on something, such as studying, reading, working, or simply trying to write a blog without being interrupted!

A cell phone is a pretty amazing piece of technology, but don’t let it dictate how you spend your time, energy, and focus. Small changes like these can help you conquer digital distractions.

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Written by Trudy Coler, Director of Communications and Social Media, mom, and coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: focus sleep technology healthy lifestyle

Relax and Lose Weight: How Relaxation Helps with Weight Loss

GettyImages-954596030Getting healthy and losing weight go hand in hand. If your goal is to get healthy and lose weight, I need you to RELAX! No, really! Relaxing is good for you, and managing stress effectively doesn’t only help with weight loss; it makes us healthier overall. So sit back, relax, and read on for more tips.

How Cortisol Plays a Role

Cortisol is a hormone that your body releases when it is stressed. If you only have small amounts of cortisol, there is no problem. But when stress is constant, as it can be in many of our lives, the amount of cortisol in your bloodstream rises and stays elevated. This all leads to weight gain. Relaxation can help prevent overproduction of cortisol.

When cortisol is released, those cravings for potato chips, candy bars, pastries, and so on are what provide a quick energy boost. As if those choices aren’t bad enough, cortisol goes on to store those extra calories as fat, mainly around your abdominal area. There is also the interference with hormones that control your appetite. You will start to find that you are hungry more often and have a hard time staying satiated.

And if that doesn’t make you want to stop stressing, cortisol can also cause decreased muscle mass because it lowers testosterone levels. The lower your muscle mass, the less fat you will burn when working out.

Ways to Relax

Here are five tips for relaxing.

  1. Meditate. This is an excellent method for cleansing your mind of all the negative and stressful thoughts. Refresh and think positively. Whenever you feel heavy or burdened, or even when you feel tired of doing work, take a deep breath and allow your body to relax. Really focus on your breathing by using a 5 count: Breath in for a count of 5. Hold your breath for a count of 5. Release that breath for a 5 count. Try this a few times a day.
  2. Avoid distractions. To fully relax your lifestyle and live a stress-free life, limit all distractions, such as television, cell phones, or laptops.
  3. Become more active. Exercise alone can be the best stress reliever. Try grabbing a friend for a walk/jog outside in the fresh air. Take a new group fitness class like the various types of yoga classes NIFS offers. Join a small group where you can laugh, work, and have fun with goal-oriented individuals, or have a Health Fitness Instructor design a program dedicated to your needs. The possibilities are endless.
  4. Eat healthy. Like regular exercise, eating a healthy, balanced diet can make a significant contribution to a less-stressful lifestyle. By making healthy eating choices, you can make yourself both physically and emotionally stronger. Eat vegetables, drink plenty of water, and control your portions. Not sure about where to start with your nutrition? Meet with one of our Registered Dietitians to get you going on the right path. If you want the whole package of eating healthy and exercising, check out our Ramp Up to Weight Loss program.
  5. Get enough sleep. The average adult requires between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. Not only can lack of sleep lead to increased stress, but chronic sleep deprivation can impair your judgment, reasoning ability, appearance, and performance at work. Start by establishing a daily sleep schedule. Do something relaxing before bed and turn off electronic devices.

It would be wonderful if we could constantly live in a vacation state, but for most of us that’s not quite possible. By utilizing just a couple of these resources, you help not only your body get to a better state, but your mind as well, which in turn allows for weight loss to occur.

Ramp Up to Weight Loss program  LEARN MORE

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

Topics: stress weight loss group fitness healthy eating NIFS programs sleep relaxation small group training

Healthy Lifestyle Habits for Lowering Your Risk for Diabetes

GettyImages-892674198nMost of us are aware that the number of Americans diagnosed with diabetes is increasing, but so is the number of us at risk. The American Diabetes Association says you now have a 1 in 7 chance of developing diabetes if one of your parents was diagnosed with the disease before age 50, and a 50 percent chance if both of your parents have it.

Genetics plays a role, but what can you do to reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes? Lifestyle changes can be your best bet. Here are three areas that can have the greatest impact.

1. Practice Healthy Eating Habits

Eating a wholesome diet that is focused on plant foods is key. A large meta-analysis found that those who chose a Mediterranean-style way of eating were 23 percent less likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes. This style of eating is high in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, fish, seafood, olive oil, whole grains, herbs, and spices but moderate in meat, poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt. 

2. Move More, Sit Less

Physical activity can improve insulin resistance for as long as two days following the activity. The American Diabetes Association recommends that people at risk for Type 2 diabetes exercise for at least 150 minutes per week. This could be as simple as a 30-minute brisk walk, five days per week. 

3. Sleep

Many studies have shown that sleep deprivation impacts glucose metabolism. Aim for at least 7 to 8 hours per night for lowered risk of developing the disease.

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Just because you have a family history of Type 2 diabetes, doesn't mean you will automatically have it too. If you can make healthy lifestyle changes in nutrition, exercise, and sleep, you can lower your risk and improve the quality of your life.

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This blog was written by Judy Porter, RD, CD. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy habits walking healthy eating diabetes sleep sitting healthy lifestyle sleep deprivation

Maintain Health and Fitness at Back-to-School Time

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 11.10.45 AMWe’re not quite there yet, but it’s just around the corner. Soon the days will start to become shorter and the supermarket aisles will be full of school supplies. That routine you had down for summer is about to change because it’s back-to-school time!

If you’re like most people, you’re not quite ready to say goodbye to the relaxing days of summer and the late nights when you knew you didn’t have to be up early. For some it means your kids are going back to school, or you’re a student and your own classes might be starting, or as a teacher your new set of students will be coming in.

Getting Back to the School Year Routine

With the approach of the new school year comes the need to ease back into a routine that helps not only your children succeed, but you as well. Having to change a routine can be tough in any circumstances. When our routines change from “fun and relaxing” to “less fun and somewhat stressful,” it can be even tougher to pull it off.

The best way to ease back into the new school year is to get into a routine before school even starts. Getting a head start on a new schedule and new responsibilities will allow you and your kids to adjust before school actually starts and the pace really picks up.

Areas to Focus on for Back-to-School Prep

  • Sleep schedule. Almost without realizing it, we tend to slip into a different sleep pattern during summer, with the late nights that make for later wake times. This is probably due to several factors, the biggest being that the days are longer and going to bed when it’s light outside can be difficult. When school starts, however, it’s important to be on a different sleep schedule, making it easier to get up and not rush around in the morning. One trick that I typically try is a few days before school starts, pushing bedtime and wake time back 15 minutes each day. It is a smooth transition and will help with a school-friendly sleep schedule.
  • The daily schedule. We’ve all grown accustomed to a low-pressure schedule this summer. However, when school starts, having a schedule is critical. There are only so many hours each day to be able to fit in school, homework, extracurricular commitments, church, and chores. Creating a schedule will make it all seem less chaotic.
  • Fitness. It goes without saying that not only do we as adults need to move, but our children need to move as well. Literally. Kids sitting for long hours in the classroom, and parents sitting at the office, hinders our ability to concentrate and also lowers energy levels. Take the time to lead by example and include physical fitness activities that the whole family can enjoy. We always used to say “Let’s go outside and burn off all that energy to get you ready for bed!” Not only will grades likely improve, but there will be less stress and you’ll be able to handle the pressure that school brings.
  • Breakfast. Another important reason to get into a routine before school starts is to ensure that nobody skips breakfast. Picture this: You’re not used to having to wake up early, you sleep through your alarm. Now you’re rushing to get ready for work and school, and there’s no time for breakfast. Studies show that children who eat a nutritious breakfast function better. They do better in school, and have higher concentration and energy levels. The same goes for adults regarding our concentration and energy for work.

Back-to-school prep doesn’t have to be difficult; it just takes a little planning. School and work can be tough enough. Make it easier on yourself and your family to establish a routine before it starts!

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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: breakfast sleep school scheduling sitting

Sleep Deficiency Hinders Weight Loss, So Try Better Sleep Habits

GettyImages-155284174.jpgDo you wake up feeling tired? Well, you’re not alone. One in every three Americans does not get the recommended sleep needed for optimal health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Sleep deficiency is known to cause weight gain, but also contributes to a whole list of more serious health issues, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, and diabetes, just to name a few.

Why Sleeping Is So Important for Weight Loss

Believe it or not, each and every day the most important thing that you do all day is sleep. Yes, you heard right! Sleep quality and duration are so important that they directly affect everything else you do in life.

“We are nothing but slaves to chemical processes,” says W. Christopher Winter, MD, in an article for Livestrong.

Nearly one third of our lives are spent asleep. During sleep, it is peak time for our bodies to repair muscle and release hormones that control natural processes, including appetite. All this is being done without any conscious energy being consumed.

Consequently, a deficiency in the sleep column affects everything; more specifically, it cuts weight loss and exercise performance by nearly 20%. This spirals into a decrease in hormone production, (which occurs when we sleep), and ultimately affects our daily eating pattern. Popular studies show that weight gain occurs because more calories are consumed on the following day, because of lack of hormone release. Therefore, a continued deficit during the night will only lead to months and years of unnecessary weight gain. On the flip side, if you aren’t already experiencing weight gain, you may just be unable to lose weight at all. So you don’t have weight gain, but no weight loss occurs, either.

Practice Better Sleep Habits

The best advice is to practice better sleep habits, getting optimal rest and avoiding insomnia.

  • Start with controlling your sleep environment by setting it at the appropriate temperature. Experts suggest trying between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Try eliminating all computers and television sets from your room as well, since any source of light tends to disrupt sleep patterns.
  • Aim for consistency rather than trying to catch up on hours you might have missed the preceding day.
  • Don’t be afraid to take short naps when feeling fatigued. These should be anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes long to help improve alertness, performance, and mood.
  • Lastly, never consume caffeine in the afternoon because it has the ability to stay in your system and interrupt the natural onset of sleep several hours later (See our blog on giving up caffeine).

The final verdict is in. A poor amount of sleep greatly hinders weight loss and sets you up for other health problems. So do yourself a favor: turn out the light, tuck yourself in, and get some much-needed Zzzs.

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This blog was written by Cara Hartman, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: healthy habits weight loss sleep weight control insomnia sleep habits quality sleep

Caffeine Free: Breaking the Habit

GettyImages-911432182.jpgLike most people, I’m busy: full-time job, kids, a house… and in my “spare time,” I’m a high school tennis coach and play a lot of tennis. A few years back I started having issues with exhaustion (go figure). Right around 4pm I would just be overcome with complete, hit-the-couch, exhaustion. The only way to make it through the rest of my busy day seemed to be one more caffeinated drink.

I’m not a coffee drinker, so my drink of choice to get going in the morning was an AdvoCare energy drink called Spark®. I loved my Spark®, probably as much as most people love their coffee. I personally had no issue with using stimulants to keep me going through my day, but that changed one day recently on my drive home from work.

The Impact of Stimulants on the Brain

While listening to Fresh Air on NPR, I heard a discussion on sleep with sleep scientist Matthew Walker. Part of the talk discussed the effects of caffeine on the brain and how it alters the natural functions of the brain, including the buildup of adenosine. Adenosine is a chemical in the brain that builds up throughout the day, edging you to sleep. Caffeine comes into the brain and masks the effects of adenosine on the brain so that you are fully awake. One problem is that adenosine continues to build up, so when the caffeine wears off, you have additional levels of adenosine in your brain. This creates the effect we know as caffeine crash.

This made me think about what I had been putting in my body and the fact that I was using caffeine to mask the real issue I was having: not enough sleep. This one show made me rethink how I was treating my brain and how I had allowed caffeine to creep solidly into my everyday habits. It also reminded me that I was disregarding the need for one of the most critical things needed by the body and brain, sleep.

Giving Up Stimulants and Getting More Rest

Three months ago, I quit caffeine drinks cold turkey: no Spark®, colas, or energy drinks. In addition, I put the theory to the test and began carving out eight hours for sleeping each night. At first it took a bit more structuring, but now I don’t allow myself not to get a full night’s rest.

The results have been pretty amazing to me. In the first few weeks after quitting caffeine, I can honestly say that I was not tired. My energy levels were good all day and I was tired at the right time in the evenings, leading up to a decent bedtime and better sleep. I have also lost the cravings I had for those caffeinated drinks, which is an added bonus since I didn't have to worry about ordering more Spark® each month.

Many will tell you there are pros and cons to quitting caffeine but for me its one of the best things I have done for my health recently. Cutting caffeine has allowed my brain to function the way it was meant to, without a stimulate to interfere. For me, that is a step in the right direction.

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This blog was written by Trudy Coler, NIFS Communications and Social Media Director. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: healthy habits nifs staff sleep energy caffeine brain