Thursday, March 27, 2014

Exercising for 20 Seconds?

You may have watched a recent ABC News Nightline segment about Mr. Michael Mosley, a doctor turned bestselling author and writer of The 20-Second Workout.  He believes that, "just 20 seconds of grunting, groaning and pushing your way through the pain, even in business attire will make you not only skinnier, but healthier." In essence, he believes that 20-seconds of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is the perfect daily workout.

I understand that the world is become faster pace each day with increasing demands on a person's time and, with the invention of mobile devices, there is no such thing as "down time" anymore.  People need to squeeze more into their fitness routines - in a faster time - that ever before.  But, can 20-second workouts really help you become healthier and more toned? 

This view is undoubtedly controversial. Mosley's fitness ideology takes ideas from a growing body of science which suggests it's the stress and intensity of exercise, not the duration, that's beneficial. So, weight loss and four of the "Top Ten Killers" may be positively affected - heart disease (#1), cancer (#2), stroke (#4) and diabetes (#7).

Personally, I adhere to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, National Institute of Health (NIH) and the NIH National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's recommendations for physical activity:

Guidelines for Adults:
  • Some physical activity is better than none. Inactive adults should gradually increase their level of activity. People gain health benefits from as little as 60 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week.
  • For major health benefits, do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week. Another option is to do a combination of both. A general rule is that 2 minutes of moderate-intensity activity counts the same as 1 minute of vigorous-intensity activity.
  • For even more health benefits, do 300 minutes (5 hours) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of vigorous-intensity activity each week (or a combination of both). The more active you are, the more you will benefit.
  • When doing aerobic activity, do it for at least 10 minutes at a time. Spread the activity throughout the week. Muscle-strengthening activities that are moderate or vigorous intensity should be included 2 or more days a week. These activities should work all of the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms). Examples include lifting weights, working with resistance bands, and doing sit-ups and pushups, yoga, and heavy gardening.

I also believe that adding HIIT to your workout can help you pack more benefit into a smaller amount of gym time.  Research has shown that you can achieve more progress in a mere 15 minutes of interval training than running for 60 minutes on a treadmill. And, according to a 2011 study presented at the American College of Sports Medicine Annual Meeting, just two weeks of HIIT improves your aerobic capacity as much as 6-8 weeks of endurance training.

So, HIIT works.  But, does it have the same benefits in just 20 seconds a day?  I'll leave that for you to decide.

To read more of my thoughts regarding HIIT, check out my blog, "And the Number 1 Fitness Trend for 2014 is..."

To learn about how Fitness for Health can create an individualized fitness plan that addresses your unique needs - whether weight loss, toning, low intensity or HIIT - visit

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The 44-Pound Baby – Childhood Obesity

Recently as I read the news, I saw an article detailing a family member’s plight to overcome obesity.  That’s not news, right?  That’s a common occurrence nowadays.  This story is special. Unfortunately, the person battling his weight is an 8 month-old baby boy.

You may have heard about this story (or one like it because there have been other babies battling their weight in China, Iran, England, etc.)   A mother in Columbia sought medical help for her baby who at 8 months-old weighs a whopping 44 pounds – almost three times what he should weigh at his age and the average weight of a kindergartener.  Since birth, every time that he has cried, she has fed him. 

According to the Chubby Hearts Foundation (the medical group assisting the family), there's no medical reason for the child's astounding weight gain - he's just been overfed with constant bottles of formula. "He is a compulsive eater," said Dr. Salvador Palacio, the foundation's director.
Sadly, this parent has unknowingly created a compulsive eater as a baby.  And, this boy will forever battle his weight and appetite.

Thanks goodness that his mother sought medical help to intervene at this early age.  Not only does his extreme weight put him at risk for diabetes or a heart attack as a baby, his weight makes it difficult for him to crawl and roll over, hindering his development. His mother says he's also susceptible to fungal infections in the fat folds of his skin.
So, what is being done to help this baby and his family?  Doctors have put the infant on a strict diet to slim him down to a healthier weight. He's been taken off baby formula in favor of vegetables and juices.  Doctors say with a healthier diet and more physical activity, he could reach a normal weight in six to twelve months.

How can parents encourage their children to be physically from the time they’re born?  In my opinion, make physical activities and games FUN for the whole family!  The key to successful participation is creativity and positive reinforcement as well as scheduling a regular time during the week as “family playtime” so children will learn to emulate their parents.  Families need to work - and play - together to enhance physical fitness while building stronger relationships.  With an integrated approach, parents, grandparents and children can create fun, recreational games that also increase self-esteem - and help families bond - while increasing kids' physical activity.

·    Celebrate spring and get moving!  Schedule one afternoon a week for the family to do yard work together.  (Even if your toddler just plays in the dirt with sticks.)  Studies show that you can burn about 350 calories an hour mowing the lawn or 175 calories for 30 minutes of raking the remainder of the fall leaves.  Not only will you get a great workout, your yard will look great too.

·    Rest.  Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have found a correlation between childhood obesity and the amount of sleep a child receives each night.  The fewer hours of nightly sleep, the higher the risk for becoming overweight or obese.

·    Focus on your child’s health, not his weight.  Childhood and adolescence are difficult enough for most children and self-esteem can suffer – especially if the child is heavier.  Parents can help by making sure their kids are active and learn to make good food choices. 

·    Help kids read between the lines.  Toby Smithson, RDN, CDE, founder of and coauthor of the new book, Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition for Dummies, explains that it’s key to teach kids, even from a very young age, to be food media literate. “It’s important for parents and children to understand food advertising and to take a stand against it by not always giving in to it, Smithson says. Because children are exposed to thousands of hours of targeted advertising for fast food, snacks, and sugar-sweetened cereal, Smithson urges parents to help their kids read between the lines of food marketing strategies. (You can learn more about food marketing and children by checking out Food Marketing to Youth and other info from Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.)

·    Play actively.  It’s critical to keep your kids moving throughout the day as much as possible (and to join in on the fun when you can).  Physical activity naturally stimulates chemicals that help clear glucose out of the blood and helps to prevent diabetes.  For most kids, 60 minutes or more of physical activity is recommended daily. (For more ideas to help your kids - and entire family - stay fit, check out Tips for Getting Active by the National Heart Lung, & Blood Institute (NHLBI)).

Obesity among the young isn't a problem that's going to magically fix itself. Make a difference in your kids' lives and get moving – as a family!
Is your child or family in need of fitness assistance?  Fitness for Health can help your family create a healthy, active lifestyle while having fun.  We offer customized exercise programs designed to fit your exact needs and help you reach your unique health goals. And, we offer family workouts and Open Gym playtimes so families can become active together.  Visit to learn about our programs or call us at 301-231-7138.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Has Your Gut Blossomed Along With the Spring Flowers?

It’s officially springtime!  Today is the vernal equinox – the first day of spring.  As the days get longer and warmer, the birds are beginning to sing and the flowers are starting to bloom.  Unfortunately, throughout the long winter, many of us are also seeing that our guts have blossomed.

Spring Break vacation in looming in the near future and most people are beginning to rethink their fitness routines to ensure their abs are ready for tighter fitting clothes and bathing suit season. 
Wake up your abs with these fitness moves guaranteed to flatten your belly and rid you of your muffin top:

·         Abdominal Hold
o   Sit tall on the edge of a sturdy chair (or step with four risers) and place your hands on the edge with your fingers pointing toward your knees.tall on the edge of a sturdy chair (or step with four risers) and place your hands on the edge with your fingers pointing toward your knees.
o   Tighten your abs and bring your toes 2 to 4 inches off the floor.  Lift your butt off the chair.
o   Hold for 10-20 seconds.
o   Lower yourself.
o   Repeat for at least 1 minute.

·         Side Plank
o   Lie on your right side with your legs straight.  Prop yourself up with your right forearm so your body forms a diagonal line. Rest your left hand on your hip.
o   Brace your abs and hold for 60 seconds.  (If you can't make it to 60 seconds, hold for 5-10 seconds and rest for 5 seconds.)
o   Continue for 1 minute. (Be sure your hips and knees stay off the floor.)

·         Low-Belly Leg Reach
o   Lie face up with your knees bent to 90 degrees with your hands behind head and abs contracted.
o   Keeping your knees stacked over your hips, lift your shoulders and crunch up.  Inhale and hold for 3-5 seconds.
o   Exhale and your extend legs to 45 degrees.
o   Hold for 3-5 seconds while squeezing your lower belly.
o   Do 2 sets of 10-15 reps.

·         V-Sit
o   Lie on your back with your knees bent to 90 degrees and your feet lifted.
o   Tighten your abs as you inhale and lift your arms up and back over your head.
o    Exhale and swing your arms forward while straightening your legs so your body forms a V. (If needed, put your hands on the floor for support.)
o    Slowly straighten yourself back to the floor while bending your knees and bringing your arms overhead.
o   Do 15 reps.

·         Mountain Climbers
o   Assume a standard push-up position.
o   In one smooth motion, bring your right knee toward the right side of your chest.
o   Then, bring your left leg forward while extending your right leg back.  (Avoid any lower back movement throughout the exercise.)
o    Continue alternating your knees to your chest.
o   Do 20 reps.

Are you in need of an unique exercise plan that is created specifically for your individual weight goals?  Fitness for Health can help!  Our one-on-one fitness programs are designed to assist you in reaching your personal health aspirations.  Visit to learn how we can help you become Spring Break ready.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Spring Cleaning Workout

Spring is only two days away! 

Because many parents will be celebrating the vernal equinox by spring cleaning this weekend, I wanted to bring back one of my favorite blogs. The original was blog was posted on October 10, 2013, but I think now is a great time to incorporate fitness into your daily cleaning routine!

What does a broom handle, your infant and bottles of cleaning supplies all have in common?  They can all be used to create out-of-the-box fitness routines!

There is no excuse for not making time for exercise in your daily schedule.  With a little creativity, any household item can be used as a weight, equipment in your cardio program or as a resistance band.  The key is to think like a kid again!
Remember when you were a child and you could reenact a medieval war using a few sticks from the backyard as swords, a scooter as your trusty stead, and a sheet and a lawn chair for your castle?  All it took was a little imagination to get a great workout and have a lot of fun.

Look around your home.  There are plenty of items that you can use to create a challenging fitness routine at home.  Here are a few ideas:
 -Doing laundry? Take the tie from your robe and use it as a resistance band.  This is great for stretching your legs. Use it while lying on your back to stretch your hamstrings, IT band, or calves by simply extending one leg into the air and hooking the strap around the sole of your foot. This is also a unique weapon for ab work. Try stomach exercises where your legs are suspended out in front of you and your back is off the ground. You can loop the belt around one or both of your legs for more support and to take the strain out of your neck.

-Do you have an infant or small child living in your house?  Does he/she feel left out as you are tidying up for spring?  Incorporate him/her as a weight!  Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and hold the child with your arms extended in front of you.  Now, squat.  Or, if your child is older and heavier, slightly bend your knees and just pick him/her up in the air a few times.  The weight of your child can help tone your arms, abs, butt and thighs.  If you are looking for a real challenge, he/she can even add intensity when doing lunges.

By incorporating your child in your daily exercise, it teaches him/her the importance of fitness while giving you an opportunity to play – and bond – together.
-If you don’t have a small child, bottles of laundry detergent make great weights too!

-Your broom or mop can also be used in your cardio workout.  Place the handle on the floor so it is in front of you longways and jump over it from side to side. Practice jumping over it as fast as you can for as many times as you can.

-Do you have wood or tiled floors?  Grabs two paper plates or hand towels and place them under your feet while you are in a push-up or downward dog position.  Then, alternate sliding your feet up to your hands while remaining in your inverted position.  This is great for core, hamstrings and butt toning and sculpting - and you'll clean your floors!

So, look around your house and use your imagination to create a great, intensive workout that will be fun!
To learn how Fitness for Health can help you create an unique fitness experience in time for Spring Break vacation, call 301-231-7138 or visit

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Kiddie Calisthenics

A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a 43 percent drop in obesity rates among children aged 2 to 5 during the past decade.  Researchers found that a little more than 8 percent of children aged 2 to 5 were obese in 2011-2012, down from nearly 14 percent in 2003-2004.  This is an encouraging sign that families are trying to eat healthier and keep their young children active.  Learning the value of a healthy, active lifestyle from a very young age will teach children good nutritional habits, the importance of exercise and that fitness can be fun.
How can parents and toddlers remain physically fit together?  Make physical activities and games FUN for the whole family! The key to successful participation is creativity and positive reinforcement as well as scheduling a regular time during the week as “family playtime.”

Try incorporating these games into your toddler’s playtime to ensure that he/she grows up understanding that fitness is fun:

·    Silly Shakes – Just like the Raffi song says, “Shake your sillies out!”  If you do it long enough, you'll not only end up getting a great workout, you and your child will share some laughs.

·    Balloon Ball – Play a game of volleyball using a balloon.  Tie a piece of string between two chairs and use your hands to hit the balloon into your opponent’s territory.  Or, play tennis by using old pantyhose wrapped around a bent coat hanger to create a racket.  Playing balloon ball teaches and reinforces hand-eye coordination while burning calories.  (Although, be mindful when toddlers play with balloons.  Non-mylar balloons can become choking hazards when popped.)

·    Play Tag – Enough said.

·    Dance – Toddlers love music and dancing.  Create your own dance party.  Raid your closets to dress up and recreate your favorite music videos.  Film them and, if you dare, load them onto YouTube to send to your extended family.

·     Pushover Pop – I read about this idea on  Plant your feet (or stand on one foot) and see if your child(ren) can budge you. If you move your feet, he/she wins.

·    Bowling – Create your own bowling alley in the hallway.  Use empty milk cartons or juice boxes as bowling pins and use a ball from the toy box as the bowling ball.  This will help your child learn depth perception and how to aim.

·    Toddler Stairmaster – Need a use for those diaper boxes?  Create a “stairmaster” that your child will love.  Stack diaper boxes into a pyramid and help your child climb up and down the “ramps.”

·    Go to the Playground – Playing on the swing set or crossing the monkey bars is a great workout – for you and your child!

·    Act Like an Animal - Walk like a penguin, hop like a frog or imitate other animals' movements while making sounds like that animal.  Use this exercise as a teachable moment to help your child recognize animal sounds and get ready to head to school.

·    Play Catch – Include your whole family in the fun!  Play catch – or fetch – with your dogs.  Run around your house or backyard chasing and playing with your pets.

Children who are active as toddlers tend to stay active throughout their lives.  Staying fit can help maintain a healthy weight, improve self-confidence and decrease the risk of certain diseases, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. 
So, play with your toddlers!  Your child will have fun and so will you!

Are you looking for a fun, fitness program for your child aged 3-5?  Fitness for Health now offers “B” Social Preschool Motor Group!  This 6-week session – beginning on Thursday, March 27 - will integrate social cognitive thinking with motor activities in small groups comprised of 6 - 8 children. Concepts will be introduced in fun and motivating ways encouraging participants to explore and improve their social thinking and motor skills. And, this class will be implemented by a team of professionals - a collaboration with Early Intervention Therapists (Speech & Language Pathologists) and Fitness for Health staff.  Visit to learn more.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Five Ways to Improve Your Brain

This morning, you are in for a surprise.  Today, I'm featuring a guest blog from Dr. Judith Glasser concerning boosting brain power. 

Dr. Glasser is a clinical psychologist with more than 30 years of experience working with families in the Washington, D.C. metro area.  Currently, her main office is in Silver Spring, MD, and she works in Rockville two afternoons a week. Dr. Glasser specializes in therapy and assessment with children and teenagers. Throughout her career, Dr. Glasser has specialized in issues related to ADHD and co-existing conditions.  She co-authored a book for children with Kathleen Nadeau, Ph.D., titled Learning to Feel Good and Stay Cool: Emotional Regulation Tools for Kids with ADHD (2013), published by Magination Press.  For more information, visit


We all benefit from ways to boost our brainpower.  After all, the brain controls the rest of the body. Kids need good brainpower to concentrate in school and to learn. Teenage brains are growing by leaps and bounds. In fact, the brain isn’t finished developing until we are in our mid to late twenties. As we age, we begin to think about trying to minimize the impact of aging on the brain and preventing dementia.
Here are five things we can all do to help our brains work optimally:

  1. Exercise!  We have all heard about the health benefits of exercising on a regular basis.  However did you know that it is the single best thing you can do for your brain?  In recent years it has become clear that exercise helps us manage stress. Exercising also helps us to focus and concentrate. As we age exercise can help us to maintain healthy brains and may even help prevent dementia. Find something fun you can look forward to, perhaps with a friend or family member.
  2. Healthy eating.  I know, we all have heard about the importance of healthy eating for managing weight and cholesterol.  However what we eat feeds our brains as well. Protein, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and lots of water are really good for our brains.  We all benefit from eating something within two hours of waking in the morning and every two-three hours after that to keep our brains going strong all day long. Also some pesticides and food additives have been linked to causing symptoms of hyperactivity in children. Parents ask me, “Does this mean we have to go organic?” My answer is, it certainly won’t hurt and it might help.
  3. Essential Fatty Acids. When I was growing up, my mother used to say that fish is “brain food.”  It turns out she was right!  Certain fish like salmon are high in Omega 3 Fatty Acids, which promotes healthy brain function. These essential fatty acids have been found to reduce symptoms of ADHD as well as depression.
  4. Sleep.  There have been many reports that we Americans do not get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation is reportedly a big problem in reducing efficiency and mental functioning. Here are some guidelines to help you get a good night’s sleep:

a.   Turn off all screens (i.e. TV and computer) 1-2 hours before going to bed.  There is a blue light in the screens that triggers the brain to stay awake. 

b.   Exercise during the day, but not right before trying to go to sleep.

c.    Take a shower or hot bath to wind down.  The warmth can make you sleepy.

d.   Go to bed and get up at the same time every day (as much as possible).  This kind of routine can help you regulate your body’s sleep cycle.

e.   Remember your bed is for sleep not for work.  If you have a lot of things on your mind, keep a pad of paper by your bed and write them down.  If you can’t sleep, get up and read a book.  But remember not to read a really exciting one that you can’t put down! And don’t work in bed.

f.    If all else fails, warm milk and graham crackers might help make you sleepy.

5.   Meditation. Almost everyone can learn to meditate. It is easy and doesn’t require any special equipment. Even a few minutes a day can restore your sense of calm and peace. Meditation has been found to improve mental as well as physical wellbeing. In addition meditation may be an intervention with potential for helping many to learn to deal with chronic disease and stress.

You may have to push yourself at the beginning to try these new behaviors, but once you get started hopefully you will find that you feel great.  After a few months of pushing yourself, these will become new healthy habits.  Good luck!

Fitness for Health utilizes the latest technology to help our clients reach their health goals while improving their cognitive abilities.  To learn how our fitness trainers can help you boost your brain power while having fun, visit

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Is Eating Organic Healthier?

March is National Nutrition Month. 

I try to be a healthy eater.  I try to eat mainly organic products and I shy away from GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms).  But, is my precaution necessary?
Lately, there’s been controversy surrounding whether organic food is really healthier for you and your family.

According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, “U.S. consumer demand for organically produced goods has grown continuously since USDA established national standards for organic production and processing in 2002.”

But, a September 2012 study in Annals of Internal Medicine concluded that “organic food and conventional food had no significant differences in nutritional value, allergic reactions or incidents of Campylobacter infection, a common cause of bacterial foodborne illness.”

What about pesticides?  That same study found, “Organic foods had lower amounts of detectable pesticide residues. Conventional produce had a 38% risk of contamination, compared to only 7% for organic produce…And, conventional chicken and pork was 33% more likely to contain bacteria resistant to three or more antibiotics than organic poultry or pork.”

Is organic food worth the extra money?  It depends.  Many scientists believe that by thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables, you can lower your exposure to pesticides.  Common sense would also tell you that peeling produce before eating it would further lower levels.  Be aware though that nutritionists caution that peeling some fruits and vegetables lower your intake of essential vitamins and minerals too.  (So, don’t peel your sweet potato because they are delicious - and nutritious!)

Many scientists are also advocating that meat-eaters switch to organic meats because of the possibility of “super bugs.”  As the number of antibiotic-resistant illnesses rise, some medical professionals point to the increasing consumption of factory-farmed meats who are often given copious amounts of antibiotics in order to decrease communicable diseases in the animals living in very close quarters.  (Not to mention the ethical dilemma when you think of how these animals spend their lives.)  Are our meat-eating habits making our bodies immune to conventional medical interventions?  I’ll leave that for you to decide for yourself.

What is a cost-conscious family to do?  Educate yourself on which foods contain the highest levels of pesticides and consider spending your hard-earned money to buy those items grown organically.

The following list is based on information and studies by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Consumer Reports, and the Environmental Working Group.  
The Dirty Dozen include:

  • Celery - shown to contain up to 67 pesticides
  • Peaches - can contain up to 67 different chemicals
  • Strawberries - research showed 53 pesticides
  • Apples - 47 pesticides have been present
  • Domestic Blueberries - 13 pesticides in a single sample
  • Sweet Bell Peppers - traces of 63 different chemicals
  • Spinach/Kale/Collard Greens - spinach can be loaded with 45 pesticides with kale showing 57
  • Imported Grapes - grapes have quick pesticide absorption rates due to their think skins
  • Potatoes - laced with up to 36 chemicals
  • Domestic Cherries - cherries grown in the US have 3 times the pesticide as cherries grown abroad
  • Nectarines - can contain several chemicals because of fast chemical absorption rates
  • Lettuce - can contain up to 51 different pesticides

Conversely, the following list of produce contains the lowest levels of pesticide residue.  (These usually contain thicker skins which protect the fruit inside from pesticide exposure or have inedible peels.)
  • Asparagus
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Corn  (Although, more and more corn is now genetically modified.)
  • Kiwi
  • Mangoes
  • Onions
  • Papaya
  • Pineapples
  • Sweet Peas
  • Eggplant
It’s important to understand what you are putting into your body because food fuels your mind and your muscles.  The dietary choice is yours!

Fitness for Health can help you build a healthier body by creating a customized, exercise regimen that addresses your unique concerns.  Whether you want to decrease your weight, tone, build muscle, increase flexibility or improve your athleticism, we can help you reach your goals!  Visit to learn how we can help you.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Do You Know What You’re Eating?

Did you know that the Nutrition Facts label, aka the “food label,” was introduced in 1994 to give consumers an idea of the nutritional value of their food purchased in grocery stores?  And, it hasn’t been updated in 20 years. 

Last week, on the fourth anniversary of the Let’s Move! campaign, First Lady Michelle Obama, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg made a historic announcement.  The food label, as we know it, will never be the same.

According to, the label will be updated to “reflect the latest scientific information, which ties diet to obesity and chronic diseases.”

What are the proposed changes?
  • Removal of the declaration of “calories from fat” because science supports that the type of fat is more relevant than overall total fat intake.
  • Requirement of a statement of “added sugars” and if they are natural sugars or how they were derived.
  • Update which essential vitamins and minerals should be included as nutrients of public health significance.
  • Better highlight the key information on the label, such as calories and serving sizes.
  • Update serving sizes to reflect how people realistically eat.

“Our guiding principle here is very simple: that you as a parent and a consumer should be able to walk into a grocery store, pick an item off the shelf, and tell whether it’s good for your family,” Mrs. Obama said.  “So this is a huge deal, and it’s going to make a big difference for families across this country.”
Nutrition is a key component of overall health.  In addition to a healthy diet, people need to institute a healthy, active lifestyle – which includes a consistent exercise regimen. 

Visit to learn how Fitness for Health can help you create a fitness plan customized to assist you in reaching your personal goals.