Thursday, January 30, 2014

Exercise as Medicine for the ADD and ADHD Communities

As many of you know, I have ADD and created Fitness for Health because I wanted to help children faced with the same challenges and assist them in achieving their maximize potential via physical fitness.
One ADD/ADHD treatment that doesn't require a prescription or a visit to a physician's office is exercise.  Research is finding that participating in a regular fitness routine can improve cognitive ability.

“Exercise turns on the attention system, the so-called executive functions — sequencing, working memory, prioritizing, inhibiting, and sustaining attention,” writes John Ratey, M.D., an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (Little, Brown).  “On a practical level, it causes kids to be less impulsive, which makes them more primed to learn.”

Exercise is essential for everyone – especially people with ADD and ADHD.  Exercise increases blood flow to the brain and, in the process, stimulates the release of brain-derived neurotropic factors (BDNF) which promote the growth of new brain cells (neurons).  When you exercise, your brain releases chemicals called neurotransmitters, including dopamine, which helps with attention and clear thinking. People with ADD and ADHD often have less dopamine than usual in their brains.  Therefore, exercise is a vital component of treatment for ADD and ADHD and is something that makes it easier to sustain mental focus for extended periods of time.

Research has shown that innovative and creative approaches to fitness have helped kids - and adults - of all ages and abilities enjoy the benefits of physical activity.  In my nearly 30 years of experience as a Certified Athletic Trainer and as a person with ADD, I suggest these fitness tips:

·    Set aside a specific time each day for fitness.  If you know that you or your child has extra energy in the late afternoon, plan to workout at 5pm each day.  This will allow the person an opportunity to unwind from a hectic day and better regulate energy needed to complete homework, cook dinner or plan for the next day.  By organizing your fitness routine, you can help yourself stay on task and better manage your time.

·    Exercise every day.  Exercise will help increase blood flow and release endorphins that will boost your mood and help clear your mind.

·    Choose an activity that is vigorous and fun.  If you look forward to working out, you are more likely to stick to your fitness routine.  Join a team sport or schedule walks with a neighbor.  Plan a family fun night where one night each week is designated for Wii games, dance contests, sledding or any activity that gets your family moving.  By exercising as a family, you not only have the opportunity to bond but also create lifelong memories.

·    Take advantage of fitness technology.  Do you stress over documenting your fitness milestones?  Try Google’s “My Tracks.”  My Tracks activates location data from GPS, cellular tower data and Wi-Fi to automatically record your speed, distance and path when you walk, run, bike or do any outdoor activity. To ensure you stay on task, you can view your data live and hear “periodic voice announcements of your progress.” 

·    Add meditation to your fitness routine.  In addition to relieving stress, yoga or tai chi can help you focus your attention and improve impulse control.
If you or a loved one have ADD or ADHD, the daily demands of school, work and family can seem overwhelming. But, by using exercise as a “medicine,” you can become more organized, better able to concentrate and use your newfound focus to tackle new challenges.

To learn how Fitness for Health helps children and adults with ADD and ADHD improve their cognitive abilities through exercise, visit or call 301-231-7138 to schedule a free tour of our facility.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Future of Fitness

Recently, the International Consumer Electronics (CES) Show was held in Las Vegas and unveiled the world’s most cutting-edge health and fitness technology.
Parents and reporters alike have asked me which innovations I’m most excited about introducing at Fitness for Health.  Personally, I am looking forward to the increased use of heart monitors in personal conditioning.  New Zypher monitors also act like bio markers which can record and track your physical health. This allows the wearer to know exactly how his/her body is reacting to his/her workout routines and helps fitness trainers better create personal exercise programs to meet that individual’s unique goals.
The fitness industry is growing by leaps and bounds each day. It is a very exciting time in fitness technology.

Here are a few ideas concerning how to incorporate the latest technology into your fitness routine:

·    Have you outgrown an old fashioned pedometer? The Wellograph – a CES Innovations Award honoree – is a wristwatch-like device that helps you create a complete picture of your health by displaying instagraphics of your pulse, workout, steps and wellness information.  Its integrated heart rate sensor tells, not just how much you have moved, but more importantly, how hard you have exercised.  Wellograph even reminds you how long you have sat still and, when you start walking again, it acts as a pedometer.  Because it is smartphone compatible, you can share your workout details on social media with your friends.

·    Do you have an Android phone? Try Google’s “My Tracks.”  My Tracks activates location data from GPS, cellular tower data and Wi-Fi to record your speed, distance and path when you walk, run, bike or do any outdoor activity. You can view your data live and hear “periodic voice announcements of your progress.”  It then aggregates this data to local storage as an XML file which it sends to Google Drive - Google’s personal cloud storage product – and can be shared with friends. (And, it can sync with the Zephyr HxM Bluetooth heart rate monitor that I mentioned above.)

·    Do you love basketball? Try the 94Fifty® Smart Sensor Basketball  - another CES Innovations Award honoree.  It is a blue-tooth enabled, fitness product that measures and diagnoses both the frequency and quality of key skills critical to build confidence, versatility and success on the basketball court.

·     Exergaming (the use of technology in exercise) is continuing to become more mainstream for adults and for children. Are you and your kids caught up in the zombie craze? Try Zombies, Run! It is one part audio book, one part video game, and one party sneaky personal trainer.  This app blends audio clips with a user’s iPhone music to take you through a four-week story (and exercise routine) that revolves around post-zombie apocalypse missions. When a zombie is approaching, for instance, the runner has to pick up his/her pace by 20% for up to a minute (tracked through the phone’s GPS or accelerometer) or risk being eaten by the undead.

There are many ways that you can use technology to help you to chart, improve upon and plan your fitness routine. Whether you're an amateur athlete or a professional, technological advances can tremendously help to customize workout plans, track wellness and communicate your workouts to your friends.
To learn how Fitness for Health utilizes cutting-edge technology in our exercise facility, visit

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Can Your Dog Help Find the Origins of Autism?

With Autism awareness increasing each day, by now, you have probably heard that 1 in 88 children in the United States is diagnosed as having Autism and 1 in every 54 boys. Unfortunately, although the number of children diagnosed on the spectrum is increasing year to year, the amount of funding given to autism research is far less than with other childhood diseases.

Have you heard about the new Canine, Kids and Autism study? The American Humane Association is partnering with Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), a non-profit, to research the genetic tendencies of obsessive-compulsive behavior in purebred Bull Terriers, Doberman Pinchers and Jack Russell Terriers.  They hope to apply this knowledge to find the origins of these behaviors in Autistic children and, therefore, be able to provide earlier diagnoses to worried parents and more viable treatments for affected children.
According to the American Humane Association, “Using state-of-the-art technology, TGen scientists will conduct whole genome sequencing to analyze the genomes of these dogs in hopes of pinpointing those genes that might be responsible for atypical behaviors. The study aims to provide both physicians and veterinarians with new insights for earlier diagnoses and innovative therapeutics.”

How You Can Help
TGen’s research is driven by owner-donated samples. (They state that no dogs are housed for research purposes or harmed in any way.)

According to TGen’s website, they “perform the necessary DNA analyses with a simple sample of a dog's saliva or cheek cells, which can easily be collected from home. Blood samples drawn by your veterinarian are also welcome. Any owner of a purebred dog can help advance ongoing research.”
TGen is currently recruiting samples representing a wide variety of disorders – including Autism - across many representative breeds.  If you are an owner of one of the listed breeds (from the DNA kit form), you are invited to participate by submitting a DNA sample. Samples are needed from both healthy “control” dogs as well as dogs affected with the disorders under investigation.

To request a free DNA kit from TGen, click here.
Additionally, federal funding is not available for this study.  The collaborators (American Humane Association, TGen, Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC), Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and the University of Massachusetts Medical School) are seeking private funding for this research.  If you are interested in donating, please contact American Humane Association at 866-242-1877.

If your child has been diagnosed on the spectrum and you are researching fun activities that can help regulate energy and improve motor skills, visit or call 301-231-7138.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Selecting a Summer Camp

Are you ready for summer camp?  Although the forecast is calling for snow, summer is right around the corner.  This means it’s time to finalize your child’s summer activities.

Selecting a summer camp can be overwhelming for parents and children alike.  Summer camp options are as plentiful and unique as your child’s interests.  So, how is a parent to decide?
Here are a few questions to consider as you hunt for the perfect camp for your child:
·    Would my child be more comfortable attending day camp or sleep-away camp? Day camps last for as little as one day or as long as several weeks, and overnight camps generally last at least a week. You know your child better than anyone so you can probably gauge how your son or daughter will react to certain situations. Has your child ever spent a few nights away from home? If not, how do you think your son or daughter will handle that first night without Mom or Dad present?

·    Does my child want to pursue a specific interest?  Are there prerequisites that need to be met? Does your child love to sing and dance?  Create beautiful works of art? Aspire to write the next, great American novel?  Your child may enjoy a camp centered around his/her focused interests. But, remember, your child may have to audition or have a specific background.  Math, science and technology camps, in particular, often have prerequisites (specific classes in school or a solid understanding of computer languages) while specialty camps in areas like music, dance and horsemanship often require a certain level of expertise in order to be accepted to the camp.

·    What is the camp’s philosophy?  Is it one you're comfortable with as a parent? Is it a good match for your child's temperament? Is competition or cooperation emphasized? If you're looking at a sports camp that touts an affiliation with a celebrity athlete, how much time - if any-will the sports star actually spend there?

·    What is the counselor-to-camper ratio?  The leader-to-child ratio varies, depending on the type of camp and the age of the children.  The American Camp Association (ACA) guidelines for overnight camps call for a 1:6 ratio for ages 7 and 8, 1:8 for ages 9-14; and 1:10 for ages 15-18. Day camp guidelines call for 1:8 for children ages 6-8; 1:10 for children ages 9-14; and 1:12 for ages 15-18. If your child has a special need, you may want more one-on-one attention and increased staff to child ratio.

·    What are the qualifications of the staff?  Do the counselors have a background in the camp’s area of focus?  Do the staff members hold educational degrees and/or work in that field? Have they taught children previously? For example, are the counselors at a cooking camp chefs?  Do they have real-life experience or just graduated from culinary school?

·    Are there accommodations for children with special needs?  If your child has special needs due to an allergy or other medical condition, be sure to ask if the camp is equipped to handle these special requirements for your child. There are plenty of camps with programs and facilities designed specifically for campers with a wide range of special needs, both physical and behavioral.

The right camp can help a child become more socially adept, improve self-esteem, become less gadget-absorbed, and often interested in new activities. So, selecting a camp for your child is important.  Include your child in the process!  Ask what camp activities are important to him/her and invite your child to attend camp visits with you.  This way, your child can ask camp personnel questions, meet the staff before the first day of camp and have the opportunity to meet other new campers during Open Houses.
Happy summer camp hunting!
To learn how Fitness for Health’s summer camps help children of all ages increase their social skills while having fun, call 301-231-7138 or visit

Thursday, January 16, 2014

What is OT and Could My Child Benefit?

Because I created a children’s fitness facility that also services the special needs community, I am constantly asked, “What is OT?”
Occupational therapy, “OT,” treatment focuses on helping people achieve independence in all areas of their lives.  According to The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc., “Common occupational therapy interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, helping people recovering from injury to regain skills, and providing supports for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes.” In essence, OT can help people with various needs improve their cognitive, physical and motor skills and enhance their self-esteem and sense of accomplishment.

Your child may benefit from OT if he/she:

·         Avoids novel physical activities

·         Exhibits poor handwriting or tires easily when completing fine motor tasks

·         Frequently falls or runs into people or objects

·         Has more difficulty than peers when getting dressed, tying shoes or fastening clothes

·         Experiences difficulty putting together puzzles or finding hidden objects

·         Has trouble sitting up or sitting still during circle time

·         Becomes easily frustrated and has frequent emotional outbursts

If you believe that your child could be helped by occupational therapy, resources are plentiful.  To learn more about OT services, visit The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc., National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy or contact your child’s school.
To develop customized therapeutic goals that are meaningful to your child and effective in helping him or her reach maximum potential, call Fitness for Health at 301-231-7138 or visit our website.   

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

And the #1 Fitness Trend for 2014 is…

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2014, the Number 1 fitness trend this year will be high-intensity interval training (HIIT) programs, which typically take fewer than 30 minutes to complete.
This spot was previously held since 2008 by “Educated, certified and experienced fitness professionals.” More than 3,800 fitness professionals completed an American College of Sports Medicine survey to determine the top fitness trends for 2014. The survey results were released in the “Now Trending: Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2014” article published in the November/December issue of ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal®.

According to ACSM and, the top 10 fitness trends predicted for this year are:

#1: High-intensity interval training.  HIIT is an enhanced form of interval training, an exercise strategy alternating periods of short, intense exercise with less-intense recovery periods. These short, intense workouts provide improved athletic capacity and condition, improved metabolism, and improved fat burning.
#2: Body weight training. No gym equipment?  No problem. This includes push-ups, pull-ups, squats and other forms of resistance training.

#3: Educated, certified and experienced fitness professionals. The Number 1 trend for the previous six years involves working with experts who have been certified through programs such as those accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).
#4: Strength training. Strength training builds muscle strength using resistance exercise with free weights, machines or a person’s own body weight.

#5: Exercise and weight loss.
#6: Personal training. According to the ACSM, health and fitness facilities are placing increasing importance on hiring staff members with the education, training and credentials to serve as personal trainers. The trend is mirrored by the growing number of students who are majoring in kinesiology, the scientific study of body movement and its impact on health, society and quality of life.

#7: Senior fitness.  New emphasis is being placed on the mind/body connection of exercise for the booming Baby Boomer population.  Innovative machines like bioDensity and Power Plate are helping people realize the need for improving bone density and flexibility as one ages.
#8: Functional fitness.  This is a trend toward using strength training to improve balance and ease of daily living such as carrying groceries and walking longer distances. Functional fitness and special fitness programs for older adults are closely related.

#9: Group personal training. Exercise is always more fun with a friend!  Fitness experts attribute the popularity of this trend to challenging economic times. Trainers work with groups of two or more clients, who generally pay less than they would for individual personal training.
#10: Yoga. Who couldn’t use a little more flexibility and relaxation?  Bikram, Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Kripalu, Anurara, Sivananda and various other styles of yoga utilize a series of bodily postures to promote the mind/body connection.

Other fitness trends for 2014 include perennial favorites - treating and preventing the growing childhood obesity epidemic, health promotion at your place of work, adding outdoor activities to your fitness routine, circuit training, wellness coaching, sport-specific training, worker incentive programs and boot camps.
Although, in my opinion, a crucial future fitness trend is missing – using state-of-the-art technology to increase health, wellness and enthusiasm for creating a personalized exercise program.  If you love technology like I love it, you realize that the future of fitness is incorporating health tracking into every facet of your life. 

Check my blog in a few weeks to learn my take on the evolution of fitness technology.
To learn how Fitness for Health can help you accomplish your 2014 fitness goals using ACSM’s fitness trends, visit or call 301-231-7138.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Stop the Yo-Yo Dieting Cycle

Now that the new year has begun, many people are trying to become healthier and eat better.  Some, unfortunately, will try "quick fixes" and fad diets. 

Yo-yo dieting - or weight cycling, as experts call it - is practically a national pastime. An estimated 54 percent of people in the United States are currently trying to shed pounds, fueling a $59-billion-a-year industry of supplements, books, and packaged foods that promote weight loss, according to Marketdata Enterprises, a marketing research group.

It's not only your waistline that suffers from yo-yoing. "Repeated crash dieting increases metabolic hormones, such as insulin, and elevates levels of hormones, including estrogen," says Andrea Pennington, MD, author of The Pennington Plan for Weight Success. "These changes cause you to start putting on weight around your middle, which research has linked to insulin resistance, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease."

Yo-yo dieting operates in such a way that it is harder each time to lose weight. As the yo-yo nears the end of its string, the plastic spool starts spinning slower. Likewise, the diet follower may find weight loss success harder and harder to maintain as time goes by, leading to low self-esteem, depression and demotivation. As soon as you attempt to eat normally again, all the weight regained will be stored in the form of fat. This type of diet essentially tampers with a healthy body's normal fat-to-muscle ratio, which is a primary aspect of good health.

Instead of turning to a fad diet, try these suggestions to begin the process of transforming yourself into a healthy and confident new you.

Aim for realistic weight loss goals. Don't place added pressure on yourself to lose 15 pounds before Valentine's Day.  Losing weight is a marathon, not a sprint. 

Decrease calorie consumption. "Even if you're doing everything right, your weight can fluctuate based on the time of day or how hydrated you are," says Evelyn Tribole, RD, coauthor of Intuitive Eating. In fact, research shows that women who fixate on counting calories and restricting their food intake report more stress and have higher levels of cortisol, which is linked to overeating. "Instead of obsessing about every morsel, think about how eating right and exercising make you feel," Tribole says. "Do you have more energy? Are you able to keep up with your kids?" If you take the time to notice the positive effects of each healthy behavior - whether it's pushing away from the table before you clean your plate or biking for 30 minutes a day -- it's easier to motivate yourself to stay on track.

Do not skip breakfast. In one recent study, people who ate breakfast as their largest meal lost an average of 17.8 pounds over three months. The other participants consumed the same number of total calories per day, but ate most of their calories at dinner, according to the study published in July 2013 in the journal, Obesity. The large-dinner group only lost an average of 7.3 pounds each over the same time period.

Modify activity levels to sustain muscle mass while losing weight. Everyone needs exercise.  Exercise not only helps you maintain healthy weight levels, but also is critical for strengthening bone density, increasing muscle strength and improving endurance.  Exercise can also be a great stress reducer while helping to improve your self-esteem.  When you feel good about your appearance, you become happier and more self-confident which improves all areas of your life.

Take a good look at what, when, and why you eat. If you're a stress eater, try making a list of calming strategies that don't involve reaching for a cookie jar. When you feel overwhelmed, consult your list and pick out something you can do in the next 10 minutes. Go for a brisk walk with your dogs or play a quick game of tag with your kids. Distract yourself long enough for your stress levels to come down.

To learn how Fitness for Health can help transform you into a healthier you, call 301-231-7138 or visit

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Tips for Exercising in Cold Weather

Even as the temperature dips farther down on the East Coast, I have seen a handful ardent joggers sticking to their daily fitness routines.  I admire their drive, determination and no fear of the elements.  But, cold weather can discourage even the most motivated exercisers. And, if you're not incredibly motivated and fond of frigid temperatures, it's easy to pack away your workout gear along with your warm-weather clothing.

You don't have to let cold weather spell the end of your exercise. With these tips from the Mayo Clinic for exercising during cold weather, you can stay fit, motivated and warm when the weather turns chilly.

Dress in layers.  One of the biggest mistakes you can make while exercising in cold weather is to dress too warmly. Exercise generates a considerable amount of heat — enough to make you feel like it's much warmer than it really is. Yet, once your sweat starts to dry, you can get chilled.

Dress in layers that you can remove as soon as you start to sweat and then put back on as needed. First, put on a thin layer of synthetic material, such as polypropylene, which draws sweat away from your body. Avoid cotton, which stays wet next to your skin. Next, add a layer of fleece or wool for insulation. Top this with a waterproof, breathable outer layer. A heavy down jacket or vest may cause you to overheat if you're exercising hard. If you're lean, you may need more insulation than someone who is heavier. If it's very cold, consider wearing a face mask or scarf to warm the air before it enters your lungs.

Wear the appropriate gear.  In winter, it is still quite dark in the morning and the late afternoon.  If it's dark when you exercise outside, wear reflective clothing. To stay steady on your feet, choose footwear with enough traction to prevent falls, especially if it's icy or snowy. Wear a helmet while skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling. Consider using chemical heat packs to warm up your hands or feet.

Head into the wind.  If possible, do the second half of your workout with the wind at your back. This way, you're less likely to get chilled, especially if you've worked up a sweat. This may take some planning of your exercise route before you head out the door.

Drink fluids.  You need to stay well hydrated when exercising in cold weather just as you do when exercising in warm weather. Drink water or sports drinks before, during and after your workout, even if you're not really thirsty.

Wear sunscreen.  It's as easy to get sunburned in winter as in summer — even more so if you're exercising in the snow or at high altitudes. Wear a sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays and has an SPF of at least 30. Use a lip balm that contains sunscreen and protect your eyes from snow and ice glare with dark glasses or goggles.

Pay attention to the wind chill.  Wind chill extremes - like what we are currently experiencing - can make exercising outdoors unsafe even if you dress warmly. The wind can penetrate your clothes and remove the insulating layer of warm air that surrounds your body, and any exposed skin is vulnerable to frostbite. If the temperature dips well below 0 F (-17.8 C) or the wind chill is extreme, consider choosing an indoor activity or take extra precautions if you choose to exercise outdoors anyway.

Know when to come inside.  Frostbite is most common on exposed skin, such as your cheeks, nose and ears, but it also can occur on hands and feet. Early warning signs include numbness, loss of feeling or a stinging sensation. If you suspect frostbite, get out of the cold immediately and slowly warm the affected area — but don't rub it since that can damage your skin. If numbness continues, seek emergency care.

Exercising in the wintery, fresh air can be fun, but also dangerous in certain conditions.  Be careful, but have fun!

Visit to learn about Fitness for Health's winter fitness programs for adults and children.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Sticking to Your New Year's Resolutions

Chances are that you created at least one New Year's resolution.  Did you vow to lose weight, get fit or eat a healthier diet?  We are 48 hours into the new year.  Have you adhered to your resolution?  Or, has your promise already slipped to the wayside?
Creating resolutions is the easy part.  Sticking to your resolutions is difficult.

Don't fret.  Here are a few suggestions to help you persevere.
Start making healthier food choices.  Consulting a dietitian for nutrition advice may help. Healthy eating is an essential part of a good fitness program. A person who works out a lot but does not nourish the body properly could be sabotaging or hiding the fruits of his labor.

Dee Sandquist, MSRD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, advises having a general plan, and investing some time in advance to make it happen. "Taking five minutes on the weekend to plan your food for the week can pay huge dividends," she says. "Look at your schedule for the upcoming week, and find out how many meals you'll be eating in and how many meals you'll be eating out. Make a list, and then go to the grocery store."
Planning works regardless of your dietary goal. Some people may prefer to work on reducing fat in their diet, adding fruits and vegetables, watching portions, eating at a slower pace, or curbing junk food.

Exercise in the right way.  Unless you are starring in a Gatorade commercial, you don’t need to bench press double your weight nor run a mile in under 6 minutes each morning.  For the average person, a good fitness program consists of exercises that work out the whole body. A cardio workout improves the function and health of the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Weight-bearing exercises enhance the function and health of the bones, muscles, joints, and connective tissues.
Because bodies are living, breathing matter, they need to be stimulated in order to become more fit. This means exercise is ideally done just outside your comfort zone in order to improve.

Exercise does not have to be boring either. Unfortunately, as people grow up, they lose the connection between fun and movement – “playtime.”  Think about the kind of person you are and what you like to do. Some people may love going to the gym while others prefer to play club/team sports. Still others like walking the dog around the neighborhood or playing tag with their kids at the playground.  Getting your children involved benefits not only you by adding fun to your fitness routine, but it also teaches your kids the importance of exercise!
If you’ve totally run out of steam when it comes to keeping your resolution by mid-February, don’t despair. Start over again! Getting fit is a marathon, not a sprint.  No one expects you to change your habits overnight – and you shouldn’t expect yourself to either.

I wish you a healthy and happy new year! 
To learn more about Fitness for Health’s exercise programs or how we can help you accomplish your fitness goals in 2014, visit