Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Mind Body Connection

Physicians have pondered the connection between our mental and physical health for centuries. explains, "Did you know you can beat stress, lift your mood, fight memory loss, sharpen your intellect and function better by increasing your heart rate and breaking a sweat?  According to John J. Ratey, MD, author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, the evidence is incontrovertible - aerobic exercise physically remodels our brains for peak performance."
Your brain is no different than the rest of the muscles in your body - you either use it or you lose it. The benefits of physical exercise, especially aerobic exercise, have positive effects on brain function on multiple fronts, ranging from the molecular to behavioral level.

We all know that working out will strengthen and tone your body, but adding more cardio to your daily routine also increases your cognitive abilities, boosts your productivity and improves energy levels. Just one cardio workout pumps extra blood to your brain which delivers oxygen and nutrients the brain needs to perform at peak efficiency. Cardio exercise also provides the brain with endorphins and brain-derived protein (known as BDNF) that enhance functions such as memory, problem-solving skills and decision- making abilities.  Additionally, medical research has found that this type of exercise may create permanent structural changes to the brain itself and help to create new brain cells (aka neurogenesis); thus improving overall brain performance.  In fact, a study done by the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Georgia states even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions.

According to PositScience, here are a few things to remember about “The Mind Body Connection”:

  • In general, anything that is good for your heart is great for your brain.
  • Aerobic exercise is great for body and brain.  Not only does it improve brain function, but it also acts as a "first aid kit" on damaged brain cells.
  • Exercising in the morning (before going to work) not only spikes brain activity and prepares you for the mental stresses for the rest of the day, but also produces increases retention of new information and better reaction to complex situations.
  • If you prefer going to the gym alone, opt for circuit workouts which both quickly spike your heart rate and constantly redirects your attention.
  • Hitting a wall or mentally exhausted? Doing a few jumping jacks might “reboot” your brain.
  • When looking to change up your workout, look for an activity that incorporates coordination along with cardiovascular exercise, such as a dance class.

Ratey suggests, “Try alternating between your usual routine and some workouts that are mentally challenging, such as dancing or tennis, a few times a week. Activities like these require coordination, which engages several areas of the brain at once.  It's the mental equivalent of doing a push-up to work your entire upper body versus a bicep curl that targets only one muscle.”
In a few weeks, your sweat will literally pay off with you obtaining greater cognitive clarity, better memory, improved focus and less stress – not to mention a leaner body!

To learn how Fitness for Health’s one-on-one, exercise programs help strengthen your body and your mind, visit

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

5 Reasons You Need to Work Out Today

Spring is almost here!  And, that means people are beginning to refocus attention on outdoor cardio activities, remembering their New Year's resolutions to improve their health and hitting the gym to get ready for Spring Break vacations to the beach.

Although it is true that sustained exercise helps you achieve a great body, it also improves your overall health and keeps your mind sharp.

Here are five reasons that you need to work out today:
  1. Extend your life.  Medical research has shown that for every hour of walking, you may increase your life expectancy by two hours!
  2. Ensure your heart remains healthy.  By exercising for as little as 30 minutes a day, you can reduce your risk of heart disease by 30% - 40% and your risk of having a stroke by 25%.
  3. Become happier.  When you exercise, you produce endorphins in your brain.  Scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to elevate and stabilize your mood, decrease overall levels of tension, improve sleep and increase self-esteem.  Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects.
  4. Improve your brain function.  Just one cardio workout pumps extra blood to your brain which delivers oxygen and other nutrients the brain needs to perform at peak efficiency. Cardio exercise also provides the brain with endorphins and brain-derived protein (BDNF) that enhance functions such as memory, problem-solving skills and decision-making abilities.
  5. Bring your sexy back.  We all know that exercise burns fat, but, if you want to get lean and fit, you'll need to intensify your workouts to firm, thin and strengthen. Yes, exercise can help you lose your love handles, but it’s also the loss of excess fat deep inside the body that boosts your overall looks and your health.  There are two types of fat - subcutaneous (what you can pinch) and visceral. Visceral fat pads the abdominal organs like insulation and is far more difficult to lose.  It can also kill you.  Excess visceral fat fuels low-grade inflammation in the body and is tied to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, colon cancer, breast cancer and dementia. It can also upset the balance of important hormones that affect your skin, hair and general appearance.
Remember, "use it or lose it!" If you don't use your body to its fullest potential now, you risk losing your flexibility, muscle tone, heart strength and cognitive abilities later in life. 

So, what are you waiting for?

Fitness for Health creates unique exercise programs based on a person's individual fitness goals.  Want to lose weight?  Interested in toning your body?  Aspiring to improve your athletic skills?  No problem!  Whether you are a young child or a child at heart, Fitness for Health can you help you achieve your fitness goals.  Visit to learn about our exercise and sports programs.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Is There a Cure for the "Winter Blues"?

This winter has been especially harsh for a majority of the U.S. population with record snow falls, artic wind blasts and plunging temperatures. But, hope is on the way!

There's only 28 days left in winter!

Until spring officially begins on March 19, you may be experiencing the "winter blues."  This is characterized by a lack of motivation, low energy and mild depression that many people experience during this cold season.

Is there a cure for the "Winter Blues"?  Exercise!

Hundreds of studies link regular exercise to a better mood. In fact, according to the Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School, "A review of studies stretching back to 1981 concluded that regular exercise can improve mood in people with mild to moderate depression.  It also may play a supporting role in treating severe depression."

Any activity - walking, doing the Zumba Fitness Dance Party DVD in your living room or playing Wii with your kids - can help alleviate symptoms, but exercising outside for 20 minutes at least three times a week in the fresh air and daylight is ideal.

Try adding these ideas to your regular fitness routine this winter:
  • Act like a kid again and go sledding.  Enjoy the remaining mounds of snow and burn up to 300 calories an hour frolicking with your kids.
  • Build a snowman with your family.
  • Bundle up and go for a winter walk.  Whether taking a brisk walk around the block with your dogs, taking a stroll to admire the winter wonderland of the woods with your family or taking a reflective hike, getting outside for 20 minutes will elevate your mood.
  • Need a commercial break?  When TV ads rotate between your favorite shows, run outside and make a snow angel.
  • Instead of eating lunch at your desk, spend a few minutes making your own Olympic moment at an outdoor ice rink.  There are numerous outdoor ice rinks that offer one hour lunchtime skates.  Bring a change of clothes, take a few laps around the rink and grab a salad with salmon, legumes and walnuts on your way back to the office.  (Foods rich in Omega 3's have been shown to moderate hormone levels and help keep moods consistent.  So, load up on "fatty" fishes, edamame, enriched eggs and wild rices!)
You may notice a difference after just one workout, but it can take two weeks for your mood to turn around. Have fun in the winter sun!

To learn how Fitness for Health can help you create an exciting, winter fitness routine, visit or call 301-231-7138.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Snowball Effects of Bullying

Have you been told that you’re too short?  Too tall?  Too smart? Not smart enough? Too skinny?  Too big?  You’re not alone.  Everyone has been bullied at some point in his/her life.  Unfortunately. 
Bullying is confusing.  One person may tell you that he/she doesn’t like you because you’re “ugly” while another person may say that you’re conceited because you’re too pretty.  Sometimes, you just can’t win.

Most bullying takes place in elementary and middle school – at a time when a child’s self-esteem is typically at its lowest.  Adolescence is difficult and some children try to make themselves feel better by “picking on” kids who seem different.  Usually, the target of bullies is kids who already have self-doubts or have trouble making friends.  This is not a surprise.  But, what may surprise you is bullying can have last effects.

A new study appearing in the March edition of Pediatrics states that children who have been bullied both in the past and the present scored significantly lower on various “health measures,” followed by those who reported being bullied currently, then those bullied in the past only and those reporting no history of being bullied.

As reported by USA Today, the study compared the following “health measures”:
  • Psycho-social health (such as anger, fear and anxiety), 45% of 10th-graders bullied in both the past and present scored low compared with 31% of those bullied in the present only, 12% of those bullied in the past only and 7% of those never bullied.
  • Depression, 30% of 10th-graders bullied in the past and present exhibited the worst symptoms, compared with 19% of those bullied in the present only, 13% of those bullied in the past only and 8% never bullied.
  • Self-worth, 29% of 10th-graders bullied in the past and present had the lowest scores, compared with 20% of those bullied only in the present; 12% of those bullied only in the past and 8% who were not bullied.
  • Physical health (such as a student's comfort with playing sports and being physically active), 30% of seventh-graders bullied in both the past and present scored low compared with 24% of those bullied in the present only, 15% of those bulled in the past only and 6% of those never bullied.
Intervening early to stop bullying is important because the health effects – including anxiety, depression and impaired self-worth – can persist even after bullying stops.

It is critical for adults to recognize the signs that a child is being bullied.  As I wrote about in my November 12, 2013, blog, Warning Signs of Bullying, some signs that may point to a bullying problem are: 

  • Unexplainable injuries
  • Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches, feeling sick or faking illness
  • Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating. Kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch.
  • Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
  • Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
  • Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem
  • Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide.  If your child is feeling hopeless, helpless or knows someone who is, please call the LIFELINE at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

It is our jobs as adults to help children who can’t defend themselves or need assistance.
For more information about how Fitness for Health can help improve children’s self-esteem through physical fitness, visit

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Celebrate Your Heart This Valentine’s Day

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Are you ready to exercise?
I have heart-healthy tips for you!

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow.  Does the love of your life make your heart beat a little faster and your body temperature rise? So does exercise!

By exercising for as little as 30 minutes a day, you can reduce your risk of heart disease by 30% - 40% and your risk of having a stroke by 25%.  Medical research even shows that for every hour of walking, you may increase your life expectancy by two hours!

In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are some heart-healthy exercise tips from the American Heart Association’s website:

Make the time!
  • Start slowly. Gradually build up to at least 30 minutes of activity on most or all days of the week or whatever your doctor recommends). 
  • Exercise at the same time of day so it becomes a regular part of your lifestyle. For example, you might walk every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from noon to 12:30pm.
  • Find a convenient time and place to do activities. Try to make it a habit, but be flexible. If you miss an exercise opportunity, work activity into your day another way.
Keep reasonable expectations of yourself.
  • If you've been sedentary for a long time, are overweight, have a high risk of coronary heart disease or some other chronic health problem, see your doctor for a medical evaluation before beginning a physical activity program.
  • Look for chances to be more active during the day. Walk the mall before shopping, take the stairs instead of the escalator or take 10–15 minute breaks while watching TV or sitting for walking or some other activity.
Make it fun!
  • Choose activities that are fun, not exhausting. Add variety. Develop a repertoire of several activities that you can enjoy. That way, exercise will never seem boring or routine.
  • Ask family and friends to join you.  You'll be more likely to stick with it if you have company. Join an exercise group or health club.
  • Use variety to keep your interest up. Walk one day, swim the next, then go for a bike ride on the weekend.
  • Use music to keep you entertained.
Track and celebrate your success!
  • Note your activities on a calendar or in a logbook. Write down the distance or length of time of your activity and how you feel after each session.
  • Keep a record of your activities. Reward yourself at special milestones. Nothing motivates like success!
  • Visit the American Heart Association’s website - - to find all the resources you need to get moving and stay motivated.

Valentine’s Day comes just once a year, but your heart needs daily attention.  Celebrate tomorrow by beginning a heart-healthy exercise regimen – not only for your health, but also for the sake of your loved ones.

Visit to learn how Fitness for Health can help you create a heart-healthy and fun, exercise program to reach your personal goals.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Olympic Ideal of Sportsmanship

The world is watching the greatest sporting event that occurs only every four years – the Olympic Games.  For the next 13 days and glorious nights, people around the world will celebrate the ideals of the Olympic spirit.
During the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, each athlete takes an oath on behalf of 12,000 assembled competitors to abide by the rules of the games “in the true spirit of sportsmanship.”  So, it’s during these Olympic celebrations, I want to take this opportunity to highlight the importance of sportsmanship on the field of play.

Good sportsmanship is when teammates, opponents, parents, coaches and sports officials treat each other with respect.  Child athletes learn the basics of sportsmanship from the adults in their lives – mainly their parents and coaches.
Adults who emphasize good sportsmanship, view winning the competition as just one of several goals they'd like their children to achieve. This helps young athletes take pride in their accomplishments and, in turn, helps children to want to improve their abilities.  If children see themselves as winners, it doesn’t matter if the scoreboard declares them champions.

Here are a few ways to encourage good sportsmanship in your children:
      ·    Set a positive example for your child. Applaud great plays – no matter which team

·    Remind children that when you lose, lose with class and dignity. Be proud of how you performed or at least be aware of things you need to improve for next time.

·    If your child feels that he/she could have performed better, offer to work on improving that skill together before the next game.  For example, practice playing catch before the next game.  This will help your child’s self-confidence and will give you a chance to make lifelong memories by bonding.

·    Stay cool. Remind yourself that no matter how much hardwork your child has put into practice and playing in competition, it is, after all, just a game. Your child will see if you are upset about how he/she played in the competition and may put undo pressure on himself/herself during the next game.

·    Instill “it’s how you play the game” that is important.  Children need to understand that winning is not everything.  Did he try his best? Did she have fun? 
Remember that whether your child’s team wins or loses, your child is acquiring new skills, making friends and learning to be gracious.  These are lifelong lessons that children will use at school, in the workplace and as parents themselves.

Encourage children to play fair, develop teamwork, try his/her best and, most importantly, have fun!

As we all know, Olympians want to win, but, without sportsmanship, no one wins.
If your child would like to acquire the motor skills to improve athleticism on the playing field and the social skills to make new friends off the field, visit to learn about our spOrTs Camp, B Social Mini Summer Camp and our sport-specific training programs.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Tips to Keep Your Ticker Ticking

February is Heart Disease Awareness Month.  So, in honor of Valentine’s Day, celebrate your heart!
Follow these heart-healthy tips from the Mayo Clinic to keep your ticker ticking:

·    Don’t smoke or use tobacco. This nasty habit is one of the most controllable risk factors for heart disease. You start to improve your heart health within minutes of quitting.  After one year, your heart disease risk is cut in half and, after 10 years of not smoking, your heart disease risk is the same as for someone who has never smoked.

·    Exercise for 30 minutes on most days of the week.  Whether you hit the elliptical, jog around your neighborhood or take a Zumba class, make your fitness routine fun!  Play tag with your kids or take your dog on a long walk.  By involving the whole family in your workout, you can spend extra time bonding and creating lifelong memories. 

·    Eat a heart-healthy diet.  Eat foods that are low in fat, cholesterol and salt. Your diet should be high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products which can help protect your heart.  Beans, other low-fat sources of protein and certain types of fish also can reduce your risk of heart disease.  Read my previous blog, Heart Healthy Holiday Eating, for additional diet ideas.

·    Maintain a healthy weight. You don't have to be super-thin to reap the benefits of a smaller waistline, but according to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, carrying too much weight around the middle raises blood pressure, affects blood lipids and does damage to the heart.  Abdominal exercises are good, but remember that it's calories in (what you eat) and calories out (how you exercise) that will make a difference.

·    Get regular health screenings.  Keeping your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides in check are important for good heart health. Learn your optimal levels and don't skip your annual physical exam.
Even small, steady changes in your life can help create a stronger, more efficient heart.  More than half of heart disease is preventable, and studies have shown that 90% of heart attacks can be prevented by eating a lot of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish and legumes; exercising; maintaining a healthy weight; and not smoking.

Do you need help creating an exercise program that will benefit your heart?  Visit to learn about our convenient training sessions that can be scheduled before work, during lunch or in the evenings.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Too Young for Strength/Weight Training?

As a Certified Athletic Trainer and the founder of a children’s gym, I am routinely asked, “When can my child begin lifting weights/strength training to prepare for sports season?”

“Resistance training,” “strength training” and “weight training” all relate to the use of free weights and/or weight machines to increase muscular strength and muscular endurance. Weight lifting involves the use of free weights (usually heavier than those used in weight training). It is very important to remember that lifting weights can cause injury, especially if the athlete is not physically mature enough to handle the movement and/or weight. Proper technique is also very important for injury prevention and for maximum results — no matter your age.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that:

  • Children be well supervised by qualified adults.
  • Any weight training program be appropriate to the child's stage of maturation and assessed objectively by medical personnel. (Proper bone development is one of the key factors to assess.)
  • Children avoid weight lifting, power lifting, bodybuilding and the use of maximal amounts of weight until they have met certain developmental criteria.
The biggest indication of whether children can lift weights is their physically maturity. Using weights or excessively exercising at a young age can impair their growth permanently. Although it’s true that exercising strengthens your muscles and bones, doing too much too soon and improper form can lead to damaging muscles and bones with injuries. Extra care is needed for teenagers with an interest for weight training - whether for sports or personal health.

Speak to a physician before allowing your child to begin a strength or weight training regimen. To give yourself peace of mind, consider working with an athletic trainer who has a degree in kinesiology or physical education and has experience working with children and teenagers.  Or, register your child in a program at a children’s gym where he/she will receive one-on-on instruction in a workout specifically designed to meet his/her individual goals.

Encouraging kids to be physically active is important at any age. In fact, kids who are active at a young age tend to stay active later in life — and have a lower risk of becoming obese and developing heart disease. But, it is also important to ask your child why he/she wants to begin a more formalized workout program.  Is it to lose weight to increase self-esteem? Improve athletic skills? Begin bodybuilding? Your child’s answers will give you an indication whether he/she is emotionally ready and also clue you in if any problems may exist. For example, if your child is being bullied, he/she may want to “bulk up” in order to feel safe and secure.

To learn about strength and weight training programs designed specifically for teenagers and young adults, visit or call 301-231-7138 to schedule a free tour of Fitness for Health’s children’s fitness facility.