Thursday, July 31, 2014

Incorporate Movement Into Learning

Any educator will tell you that movement with intention anchors learning and prepares the brain for learning. And, neuroscience supports the link of exercise, physical activity and movement to improved academic performance.

Research has shown that movement is key to learning.
According to Anne Green Gilbert, author of Teaching the Three Rs through Movement and Creative Dance for All Ages and former third grade teacher, there is a direct relationship between the amount of movement a classroom teacher uses and the percentage increase in students’ test scores.  She writes, “Five years after my own experience as a third-grade teacher in Illinois, I was training teachers at the University of Washington and received a federally funded grant to conduct research in the Seattle Public Schools. During the 1977 school year, 250 students from four elementary schools studied language arts concepts through movement and dance activities for 20 weeks. The third grade students involved in the study increased their MAT scores by 13 percent from fall to spring, while the district-wide average showed a decrease of 2 percent! The primary grade project students also showed a great improvement in test scores.”   That is an amazing increase in such a short timeframe.

Additionally, a 2011 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that intentional movement and exercise can improve test scores. The study adds to growing evidence that exercise is good not only for the body but also for the mind. In the study, first- and second-graders moved through stations in an action-based learning lab, learning developmentally-appropriate movement skills while basic academic skills were reinforced. The study states, “Children traced shapes on the ground while sitting on scooters and walked on ladders while naming colors on each rung or reciting sight words.”
In the same study, third- through sixth-graders had access to exercise equipment utilizing TV monitors playing math problems for review.  Another treadmill had a monitor that played geography lessons as a student ran through the scene, and a rock-climbing wall was outfitted with numbers that changed as the students climbed so they could work on math skills. The results of the study showed that the “time spent outside of a traditional classroom in order to increase physical education did not hurt students’ academic achievement. In fact, students’ test scores improved. Specifically, the number of students reaching their goals on the state tests increased from 55 percent before the program was initiated to 68.5 percent after program participation.”

These studies reinforce that students cannot sit still for very long before the blood and oxygen flow to their brains significantly slows down, thereby, slowing down the learning process.
As back-to-school season approaches, I wholeheartedly believe that movement is the key to learning. For more than 25 years, at my gym, I’ve combined fitness and basic math facts to help maintain the physical fitness and cognitive abilities of my clients aged 3 - 100, and every day I see “miracles” and achievements occur.

Bringing movement into classrooms will not only increase learning, but will make classrooms healthier and happier places to learn while showcasing the importance of physical activity and leading healthy, active lifestyles.
Fitness for Health is proud to offer “Learning On the Move” - a one-on-one, hands-on academic program where kids are encouraged to learn and develop through movement and gross and fine motor activities. To learn more about this program for ages preschool through second grade, contact Eve Margol, M.Ed., Education & Movement Specialist, at or call 301-231-7138.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Quick, Short Runs Can Prolong Your Life

Have you heard that running for as little as 5-10 minutes per day can significantly cut the risks of heart disease and can prolong your life?  It’s true according to new findings in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The study states, “People who exercised by running showed a 30 percent lower risk of death and a 45 percent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease than people who did not run at all. Runners could be expected to live about three years longer on average than non-runners.”
Furthermore, the benefits of running were the same whether people ran a little or a lot, fast or slow. There was no statistically significant difference among those who ran 50 minutes per week and those who ran 180 minutes per week, it found. Nor did it matter if the running was happening “at a pace of less than six miles per hour.”

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, July 24, 2014

Is Childhood Obesity Leveling Off?

After rising steadily for more than 10 years, the proportion of U.S. kids defined as obese due to a large waist circumference held steady between 2003 and 2012, according to a new analysis of national data.

Abdominal obesity refers specifically to “visceral fat,” or the fat that accumulates around the midsection. This can be measured by waist circumference or by a waist-to-height ratio.
Using biennial data from a nationwide health and nutrition study, Lyn M. Steffen, senior author from the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and her coauthors found that about 18 percent of kids ages two to 18 were obese based on their waist circumference in 2011 and 2012, very close to the rate in 2003 and 2004.  In the same group, 33 percent of kids ages six to 18 were considered obese based on their waist-to-height ratio, according to results published in Pediatrics. That means their waist circumference equaled at least half of their height.

18% and 33% obesity rates are dangerously high.
Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults and are more at risk for adult health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.

We need to focus on helping children adhere to healthy, active lifestyles.

What can be done?

·    Celebrate summer and get moving!  Schedule one afternoon a week for the family to do yard work together.  Studies show that you can burn about 350 calories an hour mowing the lawn or 175 calories for 30 minutes of picking up sticks and weeding.  Not only will you get a great workout, your yard will look great too.

·    Focus on your child’s health, not his weight.  Adolescence is 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. 

·    Make fitness fun!  Exercising doesn’t have to be sit-ups and sprints.  Have fun as a family.  Take your children with you and the family dog for a walk around block.  Hit the basketball court for a friendly game of Horse.  (Try parents vs kids.) Unwind at the playground on the swings, monkey bars or climbing walls.  Remember, you, as a parent, are setting an example.  If you have fun being fit, your kids will grow up learning that leading a healthy, active lifestyle is fun too.
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!

To learn how Fitness for Health can help your child enjoy physical fitness, visit

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Football Training Camp Workout

If you are like most sports enthusiasts, you’ve been counting the days until football season begins again. Well, it is that time of year; time for NFL players to head back to training camp to prepare for the 2014 football season.

Are you jealous of the speed, agility, core stabilization and leg power of your favorite, pro football player? Here are a few tips to help you become ready for the football field:

  • Include sprints into your workout twice a week.  Sprints should last 10 minutes.  According to Human Kinetics, "Five minutes of the speed workout should be devoted to doing 10 all-out quality sprints at distances ranging from 10 to 50 yards (9-46 meters). Athletes should have about 30 seconds of rest between sprints so that they are breathing easily before their next sprint."
  • To improve your speed, you must stretch correctly so flexibility training is critical.

  • Jumping rope is great. Try some of these variations: typical two-foot jump, stride jumps (swap forward foot on each jump), crossover jumps or single-leg jumps.
  • Use a speed ladder.  A speed ladder is a vinyl ladder you roll out onto a flat surface. Run through the ladder (always as fast as possible) with one foot in each space. Then, do two-foot jumps forward. Step sideways on the left and step the right foot in, then the left foot in, then out to the right, then back to the left and so on. Try shuffling sideways straight through the ladder leading with the left foot, then back leading with the right.  Want a more difficult workout? Place your speed ladder so it is going up a hill.  According to All-Pro return man and shutdown CB Patrick Peterson, “Going uphill makes your muscles work harder than they would if you were just on a flat surface; you’ll get more out of it.”
Core Stabilization:

  • Side Plank - Lie on your side with your right elbow underneath your body. Keeping your body straight, rise onto your elbow and the outside edge of your right foot; hold for specified time.  Perform on the opposite side.  Hold for 45 seconds on each side. This exercise targets the obliques, which protects the lower back. For a quarterbacks, the obliques play a critical role in his ability to pull through a throw and drive the football downfield.
  • Superman - Lie on your stomach with your arms and legs extended.  Retract your shoulder blades down and in towards the midline of your spine with your ab muscles drawn in.  Maintain this position while lifting your opposite arm and leg.  Ensure your hips stay in contact with the floor. Hold for 3-5 seconds.  Repeat 10-20 times.
Leg Power:

  • Parallel Squats - Stand with your feet parallel, about shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing straight forward or slightly outward.  Place a weighted bar (or even a broom handle) across the back of your shoulders.  Push your hips backward and lower your butt until the top of your thighs are parallel to the floor.  Your feet should be flat on the floor with your weight on your heels.  Rise back up to your starting position while keeping your heels flat on the ground.  Repeat 10-20 times.
  • Lunges - Stand like you are beginning a Parallel Squat with a weighted bar or broom handle across your shoulders.  Take a step forward with one leg so that your front knee is aligned over your heel.  Drop your back knee straight down until it is about 1/4 inch from the floor.  Use your stepping foot to push you back into your starting position.  Repeat this sequence with your other leg.  Do 15-25 reps on each side.

Are you ready to take your athletic training to the next level and train like a professional athlete?  Call Fitness for Health at 301-231-7138 to learn how we can help you become stronger, faster and more explosive.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Revamping the Nutrition Facts Label

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. 

As I wrote about back in February, 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.
Public health advocates say that information is necessary to help consumers make healthy choices at the supermarket. They'd like to see labels on the front of packages and a clearer statement of which ingredients are good and which should be avoided.

The Food and Drug Administration is working on a label overhaul and has proposed two different versions.
According to the Associated Press, “Writing separately in The New England Journal of Medicine on July 16, former FDA Commissioner David Kessler and former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official William H. Dietz both say the FDA doesn't go far enough.”

Associated Press reports the Nutrition Facts label could be improved by:
-Indicate Overall Nutritional Value - There has been more emphasis from the FDA on calories, revised serving sizes closer to what Americans really eat and a new line for added sugars. But Kessler says there is nothing in the new framework that "actively encourages consumers to purchase food rich in the fruits, vegetables and whole grains that are rightfully considered 'real food.'"

Both Kessler and Dietz say the panel's emphasis on specific nutrients gives food companies the ability to make claims on the fronts of their packages that can mislead consumers. For example, sugary or fatty foods can entice customers by adding fiber and promoting that. Diners often consume more of a food that is advertised as low in calories, whether it is healthy or not.

-Make Ingredient Lists Clearer - Shoppers may turn over a package of food and look for "sugar" on its ingredient list. What that consumer may not know is that "sugar" could be listed as maltose, dextrose, sucrose, corn syrup, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, honey or a variety of fruit juice concentrates, among other ways.

-Explain Added Sugars - Though public health specialists have overwhelmingly praised the FDA's proposed addition of an "added sugars" line that would distinguish from naturally occurring sugars, Kessler says the agency needs to include a line suggesting how much sugar people should eat daily. The FDA has said they didn't include a line because there is no accepted recommendation for how much sugar should be consumed on a daily basis.

-Put Food Labels on the Front of Packaging - The FDA said, in 2009, that it was developing proposed nutritional standards that would have to be met before manufacturers place claims on the fronts of packages. That effort has since stalled as the industry has said it is working on its own standards, a move that has frustrated public health advocates.

Kessler proposes front-of-package labels that would list the top three ingredients, the calorie count and the number of additional ingredients in bold type.

-Give Context - At a recent public meeting, several experts told the FDA they would endorse a version of the nutrition facts label that would sort nutrients by "get enough" and "avoid too much." The FDA offered that version as a second option in February's proposal.  Pepin Tuma of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics agreed, saying "nobody wants to do math."

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.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Future of Children's Fitness - Exergaming

For the last week, my fitness trainers and I have been lucky enough to train three of the hardest working and most athletic NFL athletes – Jerome Couplin III of the Detroit Lions, Shaq Rowell of the Carolina Panthers and Will Clarke of the Cincinnati Bengals.  We created an athletic conditioning, balance and visual motor function workout (“EDGE Training”) for athletes that uses the latest exergaming technology.

But, exergaming isn’t just beneficial for professional athletes or adults; it can also get kids excited about fitness.
Does your child like video games, but dislikes “exercising”?  Combine the two for a great workout!

I will admit that the notion of using technology and video games to increase children’s fitness is controversial.  After all, many believe that the rampant playing of video games has led to increases in childhood obesity.  But, I believe, that we can use something that kids love – video gaming – to get children and teens excited about physical fitness.
Let’s take a look at demographics.  Today’s youth are growing up in a world of amazing technological advances that change daily.  Generation Y (born between 1983 and 2001) make up about 95 million people.  Generation Z (born beginning 2001) has a population of approximately 25 million people.  Together, they account for 40% of our current population – a population that has seen the advent of iPhones, Game Boys, Wii and Kinect.  This population uses technology in every facet of their lives.  Why not fitness?

In a study scheduled for publication in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers studied the effects of “exergaming” – the term for combining technology/video gaming and exercising which relies on tracking body movements and reactions using the latest technology - on children.
Dr. Louise Naylor and researchers from The University of Western Australia, Liverpool John Moores University, and Swansea University evaluated 15 children, 9-11 years of age, who participated in 15 minutes each of high intensity exergaming (Kinect Sports -- 200m Hurdles), low intensity exergaming (Kinect Sports -- Ten Pin Bowling), and a graded exercise test (treadmill). The researchers measured energy expenditure and cardio function.

They found that, “high intensity exergaming elicited an energy expenditure equivalent to moderate intensity exercise; low intensity exergaming resulted in an energy expenditure equivalent to low intensity exercise.”  Additionally, the high intensity exergaming increased heart rate and the amount of energy and calories burned. Participants reported similar enjoyment levels with both intensities of exergaming, which indicates that children may be equally likely to continue playing the high intensity games – if it’s fun.
According to Dr. Naylor, "Higher intensity exergaming may be a good form of activity for children to use to gain longterm and sustained health benefits." These findings also support the growing notion that high intensity activity is beneficial for children's health, and high intensity exergaming should be considered a means of encouraging children to become more active.  Thus, combating childhood obesity.

Do I think exergaming is beneficial?  You bet!  And, I’ve seen the positive effects firsthand for both kids and adults.  It's that feeling that you're playing a game - not working out - which is at the heart of exergaming's popularity.
I look at exergames as stealth exercise.  Whether a player uses a dance game, a geo-tracking app on their iPhone or pretends to be playing in the World Cup using Wii, he/she is getting exercise without realizing it and having fun.  And, shouldn’t working out be fun in order to capture a child’s ongoing attention?

Would you or your child like an athletic EDGE?  Fitness for Health’s EDGE Training works on mental processing, balance, proprioception, motor planning, motor sequencing, visual motor function and athletic conditioning utilizing the latest in exergaming technology. All are areas that will make the difference – and give you the EDGE during game time.  Visit to learn more about our EDGE Training.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Tensed and Stressed? Head for the Trees

Wouldn’t it be great to discover a free, stress buster that can lower your heart rate, help you concentrate and is easily found?  Look out your window.

Recent research shows that taking a stroll through a natural setting can boost performance on “tasks calling for sustained focus.” “Taking in the sights and sounds of nature appears to be especially beneficial for our minds.” In fact, Dr. Marc Berman and researchers at the University of Michigan found that “performance on memory and attention tests improved by 20 percent after study subjects paused for a walk through an arboretum. When these people were sent on a break to stroll down a busy street in town, no cognitive boost was detected.”
Michael Posner, professor emeritus at University of Oregon who studies attention, says that our brains gets fatigued after working for long periods of time, “particularly if we have to concentrate intensely or deal with a repetitive task.” According to The Wall Street Journal, taking a stroll in the park “could do wonders” while drinking lots of coffee will just be further depleting.

One study found that students sent into the forest for two nights had lower levels of cortisol — a hormone often used as a marker for stress — than those who spent that time in the city. Researchers also found a decrease in both heart rate and levels of cortisol in subjects in the forest when compared to those in the city. "Stressful states can be relieved by forest therapy," they concluded.
Among office workers, even the view of nature out a window is associated with lower stress and higher job satisfaction.

You may actually not even have to enjoy the park, botanical garden, or arboretum to get the benefit. Dr. Berman said, “You don’t necessarily have to enjoy the walk to get the benefit. What you like is not necessarily going to be good for you.” For them, just looking at images of nature engages “our so-called involuntary attention, which comes into play when our minds are inadvertently drawn to something interesting that doesn’t require intense focus, like a pleasing picture or landscape feature. We can still talk and think while noticing the element.”
So, take a short walk in a park or hike in a forest to refresh your body and your mind.

To learn how Fitness for Health can help you improve your mind-body connection utilizing state-of-the-art fitness technology, visit or call 301-231-7138.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Is Protein the Key to Weight Loss?

Did you know that up to a third of women between the ages of 20 and 40 don't get their RDA of protein, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture?  And in light of the fact that a growing number of nutritionists believe that the current dietary guidelines for this mighty macronutrient are way too low, we're really missing out.

A Johns Hopkins University study found that a diet in which roughly a quarter of the calories (about 60 percent more than the recommended 10 to 15 percent) come from lean protein sources reduced blood pressure, LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels, and triglycerides better than a traditional higher-carb diet. Other research finds that diets rich in protein can help prevent obesity, osteoporosis, and diabetes.
Will eating more protein also help you to lose weight?  Maybe.

Nutritional ecologist David Raubenheimer has been studying the eating habits of apes and monkeys and concludes that, surprise, high-protein diets could aid weight loss after all. The behavior of our primate relatives hints that when it comes to weight loss, we’re better off boosting our protein intake instead of counting calories.
Raubenheimer and a team of researchers observed baboons in the wild. They found that no matter what and how much they ate, the monkeys consistently consumed 20 percent of their food in protein.

“This suggests that baboons value getting the right balance of nutrients over energy intake per se,” he said in a statement from the Society for Experimental Biology. This means no energy or calorie counting—just absorbing the right proportions of nutrients.
"A simple rule for healthy eating is to avoid processed foods,” Raubenheimer said. “No human population has until recently encountered ultra-processed foods made from industrially extracted sugars, starches and salt. Our bodies and appetites are not adapted to biscuits, cakes, pizzas, and sugary drinks and we eat too much of them at our peril.”

Need a portable, protein-packed snack?  Try these ideas:

·    Energy Bars (1 bar = 10 to 12 grams).  Pack a few Luna protein bars (190 calories, 12 grams protein) or Honey Stinger protein bars (190 calories, 10 grams protein) in your bag.

·    Hard-Boiled Eggs (1 egg = 6 grams).  Cook a dozen, stick them in the fridge, and grab one when you need a high-protein snack or want to add protein to a meal.  Or, buy Eggland's Best hard-cooked peeled eggs. Because Eggland's hens are fed organic grain, their eggs have 10 times more vitamin E and three times more omega-3 fatty acids than other brands.

·    String Cheese (1 stick = 8 grams).  Pair some low-fat string cheese (80 calories each) with an apple and a few crackers for a filling snack that will easily hold you over until your next meal.

Come and experience a workout like no other.  Fitness for Health offers a one-hour, group exercise program utilizing exergaming fitness equipment which is cutting edge and state-of-the-art.  Call us at 301-2131-7138 to learn about our Tuesday/Thursday group program from 11am – 12pm.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

TV Time = Early Death?

Did you know that adults in the United States spend more than half of their waking hours sedentary, often watching television, using a computer or driving?

Many people believe that watching TV is bad for your health.  But, could it lead to an early death?
Researchers recently published a study in the Journal of the American Heart Association that states adults who watched more than three hours of TV per day were twice as likely to die than those who watched less than one hour per day.  For each additional two hours of TV watched per day, the risk of death increased by 1.4 times.  Computer use and driving time were not associated with a higher risk of death.

Miguel Angel Martinez-Gonzalez, MD, MPH, PhD, of the Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health at the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, led the study that concluded this sedimentary habit poses a significant health risk due to obsessive snacking and lack of exercise.
What can you do to curb TV snacking?

·    Eat as you go.  When you slow down and take longer to eat, you’re giving the sugar a chance to hit your bloodstream which makes you feel more satiated. Try eating fruits like oranges or pomegranates that take a while to peel.  Or, nuts, like pistachios, which come in their shells (just make sure you portion these out; they’re high in calories). If you eat as you continue to peel your fruit or crack open your nuts, you’re giving your body more time to feel full — so you end up eating less.

·    Treat your snack like a meal.  Take the time to put your snack on a plate, sit down and enjoy it like a meal.  You’ll savor what you’re eating that much more. You’ll also be more likely to feel satisfied and not overeat.

·    Limit yourself.  Make it easier for your discipline and don’t sit down with a full bag of anything – cookies, chips or crackers. 

·    Turn off the TV.  Limit TV time and, at the same time, limit your unconscious snacking.

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

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

DC Yoga Tax Brings Out the Inner “Warrior 1” in Fitness Enthusiasts

Have you heard about the “exercise tax”?  What about the Washington, DC, yoga tax or wellness tax?  The DC Council just approved a 5.75 percent sales tax to services like gym and yoga studio memberships.

If you think that being taxed for trying to become healthier is ridiculous, you’re not alone.
Exercise is something that people should go out of our way to do - to maintain a healthy lifestyle - and it is discouraging to know that DC citizens are going to be taxed on top of what is already a taxing workout.

As reported in The Washington Post, Ed Lazere, with the DC Fiscal Policy Institute, says more Americans are now paying for services like exercise classes, and the D.C. sales tax needs to evolve.  He states, "To keep the sales tax rate as low as possible while still generating the revenue that we need to pay for schools and public safety, the best thing is for it to apply as broadly as possible.” 
DC is not alone.  He says 22 states include health clubs in their sales taxes.

"The idea that people will stop working out because they have to pay $3 a month more on their gym membership, it just doesn't make sense," Lazere said.

I disagree.  For many people, it is difficult to find the motivation to maintain a consistent, fitness regimen and adding another hurdle (pun intended) may be too much to stomach.  Not to mention, that the tax may add additional costs (both personal and via health insurance) in the future for DC residents for illness, obesity-related diseases and lost wages due to sick days. 
In my opinion the DC Council is forgetting that exercise boosts immunity, staves off certain diseases (such as diabetes, cancer and heart attacks), decreases the effects of stress and improves personal longevity.  How can you put a price on extending your life?  You can’t.

I think David A. Catania (I-At Large), a mayoral candidate in Washington, DC, said it best.  “It’s a penny-wise and pound-foolish proposition,” he said to cheers from the audience of fitness enthusiasts protesting the tax. “We are looking at increased and deferred health costs in the long run.”
I’d love to hear your thoughts.

To learn how Fitness for Health can help you improve your mind-body connection utilizing state-of-the-art fitness technology, visit or call 301-231-7138.