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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Speaks to the Soul: Music for Better Emotional and Physical Health

GettyImages-1146590025Picture this: You’re sitting in the car, in stop-and-go traffic. Your mood is just shot and all you want to do is get home. Now try this: Turn up the volume on your radio and let the music take over your soul!

According to Harvard Health, music is a fundamental attribute of the human species. All cultures, from the most primitive to the most advanced, make music. And thank goodness they do! As humans we sing, hum, make music with our hands by clapping; we sway our bodies or bob our heads back and forth when a catchy beat comes on; and we even dance to celebrate. Music is essentially wired into us by the sound of our heartbeats.

Music for Happiness

As obvious as it sounds, if you are ever in need of an emotional boost, let it be known that it only takes 15 minutes of listening to your favorite tunes to get a natural high. Your brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that leads to increased feelings of happiness, excitement, and joy.

Improved Performance

Scientists have found that when people listen to motivational music, they run faster than those who do not listen to music. The key to enhancing your performance lies in the choice of music that motivates and inspires you to move forward and faster.

Decrease Stress; Increase Health

Sixty percent of illnesses and diseases are caused by stress. To lower your levels of stress means increasing your uptake in music (and other things, but we’re focusing on music right now). Listening to music decreases the levels of cortisol in your body, which counteracts the effects of chronic stress.

During those much-needed breaks from work or even while you are working, play some inspiring, motivating music to help boost your mood and your health.

Sounds of Sleep

Hearing or singing lullabies is known to help children go to sleep. Over 30% of Americans suffer from insomnia. A study showed that listening to classical or relaxing music within an hour of going to bed significantly improves sleep, compared to listening to an audiobook or doing something else before bed.

Motivation Playlist

See how music motivates your fitness professionals at NIFS. We asked Tony, Thomas, Ashley, Lauren, and Tinisi to each name songs that help change their moods, motivate, and help them relax and enjoy the sounds:

Can you guess the songs chosen by each fitness pro?

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

Topics: stress motivation sleep music happiness emotional performance

Keeping Engaged and on Top of Healthy Habits During the Pandemic

GettyImages-1053860992These past few weeks have been trying times for not only our families and friends, but also for the athletes we engage with on a daily basis throughout the year. In our position we must stay in a lead-by-example mentality. If we let ourselves go during this time, our athletes will notice and do the exact same thing. This is definitely a time of uncertainty and there are a lot of unknowns. Controlling what we can control on a daily basis is what will help not just us personally, but also those around us, to get through and come out of this on top.

Start by Continuing to Practice Good Morning Habits

It’s easy during this time to sleep in and relax the majority of the day. That’s why it’s essential to keep as close to a normal schedule as you can. There is nothing wrong with sleeping in sometimes, but don’t make a habit of sleeping into the afternoon hours. Keeping a schedule will make it easier to get back into the swing of things once the world starts moving in its true functioning fashion again. Try to continue to start your morning with a well-balanced breakfast. Incorporate meditation or read a book or article. If you are used to working out in the morning, continue to keep that same routine. Read more about these and other healthy habits here.

Lean on Your Coach for Ideas for Working Out

Always remember that NIFS is a phone call, text, or email away to give you ideas for different daily workouts or activities. It’s still our jobs to help you get a quality workout. Not everyone is equipped with a full gym; and if you are, take full advantage. But at this time you might need to be creative, and if you need ideas (such as using objects from around your home as weights), reach out and get the help you need.

Technology is a great tool. Zoom and FaceTiming or videoing your workouts will give you something fun and exciting to do throughout the day.

Nutrition, Nutrition, Nutrition

You can’t out-train a bad diet! If you get off track nutritionally, you’re going to have an extremely hard road trying to get it back once we are able to meet as a group. Don’t let something as simple as nutrition mess up what you work for throughout the year. Keep it a top priority. This is a great time to do research and read more about nutrition and better ways to go about it. Reach out to the Teams Nutritionist to find new recipes and food ideas. 

Learn a New Skill and Have Fun with Your Teammates

Don’t let this time go by without learning something new. Read more books and learn new hobbies. Most important of all, continue learning. There are great podcasts to listen to and daily roundtable discussions to tune into. Keep exercising fun! Invite your teammates to do a Workout of the Day over Zoom or Skype to keep it fresh and fun. It will also hold you and your teams accountable during this pandemic. Daily or weekly challenges are great for continuing team-building.

Embrace the time. Control what you can control. Don’t let this pandemic move you to the back of the bus once we are clear to get back to work.

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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: NIFS nutrition healthy habits exercise at home sleep athletes pandemic

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

Melatonin and Metabolism: How Sleep Affects Your Health

GettyImages-681814096One of the most critical things we do for our health is sleep. Without sufficient sleep, we risk impairing cognitive function, developing chronic diseases and mental disorders, and even an early death.

There’s a lot about sleep that remains a mystery to science, but what is known is that it plays a major role in consolidating memories, cleaning metabolites from the brain, and allowing the nervous, skeletal, and muscular systems to repair themselves. Good sleep is essential for our bodies to thrive, but 30 percent of employed adults have reported 6 or less hours of sleep per night, when the recommended amount is between 7 and 9 hours. Hormones directly involved in the sleep cycle also play a critical role in health, so it’s important to maintain a steady sleep schedule to prevent these hormones from becoming imbalanced. One of the hormones that plays a role in sleep is melatonin, and this blog will focus on its effects on sleep as well as metabolism.

The Physiology of Melatonin

The physiology of melatonin is a complex subject, and research to discover its mechanisms and effects is ongoing. However, I will explain some of the things we know to be true about melatonin and why it may be important for you.

Melatonin is a hormone made in the pineal gland when it gets dark outside. When melatonin levels increase in the bloodstream, you begin to feel less alert and more sleepy. Although a major function of melatonin is to encourage sleep, it has a huge impact on metabolism. Some of the functions are these:

  • Regulates energy expenditure.
  • Potentiates various actions of insulin.
  • Regulates glycemia (blood glucose) and lipidemia (blood lipids).
  • Manages circadian synchronization of insulin secretion, synthesis, and action; hepatic (liver) metabolism; white adipose tissue metabolism; and skeletal muscle metabolism.
  • Regulates energy flow to and from storages.

That’s a lot of responsibility for one hormone. Whereas a lot of these functions are significant, what’s most important to understand is that melatonin balances energy expenditure by controlling the flow between energy stores. It has a direct impact on the browning of white adipose tissue, which is a way for the body to regulate body weight. This works because the function of brown adipose tissue is heat production by burning large amounts of calories. It also plays a major role in regulating glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. When melatonin levels are normal, all of these essential functions can be carried out.

Chronodisruption

Chronodisruption is what occurs when melatonin production is impaired. This can be due to illumination such as lights turned on inside when it’s nighttime, working the night shift, or aging. All of the functions listed above become disrupted and no longer work efficiently. This disorganization can lead to metabolic diseases and obesity.

The best thing to do if you think you may be experiencing chronodisruption is to talk to a doctor. They may encourage you to try melatonin-replacement therapy, because there have been some successes in various research studies, or help you find a healthier sleeping routine.

Top Takeaways About Sleep and Weight Management

Melatonin is a huge contributor to overall health and metabolism. If disrupted, your whole body can feel the consequences. It might seem like the most important thing to do for your health is healthy eating and exercise, but sleep may be at the top of the list. Without adequate sleep, our hormones lose balance, our mental capacity is reduced, and our overall health is negatively impacted.

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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: metabolism weight management sleep obesity blood sugar hormones

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

By this point, everyone has iStock_000010361991Smallheard 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.

GettyImages-627455550-[Converted]-new

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-901234842I don't know  about you but I always struggle the first week of Daylight Saving Time. 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.

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