JCC Pittsburgh on June 7, 2022
Healthy and Fit | Tip of the Week
WHAT IS ACTIVE RECOVERY? WHEN SHOULD YOU TRY IT?
When you hear the word ‘recovery’, you probably picture yourself relaxing in bed or chilling on the couch. In fact, we usually see it as such a passive process that the idea of ‘active recovery’ sounds like an oxymoron.
While recovery is a vital part of exercising, it doesn’t always mean total inactivity. There are days when passive rest is what your body needs but sometimes taking a more active approach is the best way to boost your recovery.
Read more here.
5 SURPRISING BENEFITS OF A MASSAGE GUN FROM IMPROVED FLEXIBILITY TO REDUCING THE EFFECTS OF DOMS
Originally published by Maddy Bidduplh at T3.com
According to T3.com, the benefits of a massage gun can be extensive, so if you’re in the market for something to relieve tension, speed up recovery and improve your fitness performance, it might be worth investing.
A massage gun is a handheld device that looks a bit like a power drill, but with a large, round tip. Lizzie Read, sports therapist at P3RFORM, explains that massage guns are a type of self-myofascial release – this is a self-massage technique for people who are experiencing muscle tightness or pain.
Fascia, she adds, is the thin tissue that surrounds all of our muscles, joints, and internal organs – similar to the coating that surrounds a sausage. Fascia is layered and can become ‘tangled’ by binding together. This is what presents as knots in our muscles. The result? You begin to lose flexibility and range of motion and can become prone to injury and pain.
READ MORE FROM T3’s FULL BLOG HERE.
Check out our NEW recovery room and all its offerings, including massage guns, here.
THE INCREDIBLE POWER OF A POST-MEAL WALK | Jerilyn Covert, SilverSneakers
Walking after a meal can blunt the glucose spike that follows eating. Use these strategies to reap the full benefit.
It’s natural for blood sugars to rise after eating. But if you are older or have diabetes or prediabetes, they can rise to a dangerous level that can damage your health over time. Making a habit of walking after dinner can make a huge difference. Here’s how.
Why Blood Sugars Rise After Meals “What you eat sends [blood sugar] up, and then insulin gradually pushes it back down,” explains Daniel Cox, Ph.D. Cox is a University of Virginia professor researching the effectiveness of lifestyle changes on managing type 2 diabetes.
After a meal, your body digests carbohydrates into glucose, which enters the bloodstream. Rising blood glucose signals your pancreas to release insulin. This hormone tells other cells in your body to take up that glucose from your blood to store or use for energy. If blood glucose rises too high, and your cells can’t take it up quickly enough, that excess glucose in the blood can cause damage over time. If you have diabetes, your pancreas may not make enough insulin, or your cells don’t respond to it as well as they used to. Even if you don’t have diabetes, you may experience higher blood sugars as you age.
“As we get older, the pancreas becomes more sluggish and takes a bit longer to respond with insulin. And, that response may not be as strong,” says Loretta DiPietro, Ph.D., M.P.H. She’s a professor of exercise and nutrition sciences at the Milken Institute of Public Health at George Washington University.
How to Use a Post-Meal Walk to Lower Blood Sugar Whether you have diabetes or not, a post-dinner walk can help bring down high blood sugars after eating. When your muscles are working, they will take up glucose for energy—without insulin, explains Cox.
“As they use glucose, they’re sucking it out of your bloodstream and lowering your blood sugar,” says Cox. As an added benefit, a bout of exercise can improve insulin sensitivity for several hours after, says Cox. This can make your cells more effective at absorbing blood glucose even while you’re not exercising.
For these reasons, physical activity is a cornerstone of diabetes management or prevention. Use these tips to tap into the power of a post-meal walk.
Tip #1: Get Moving 30 Minutes After You Put Your Fork Down
If you want to lower post-meal glucose, it needs to be elevated first. So you’ll want to give your body time to digest your food and break it down into glucose.
Typically, by the 30-minute mark, “your blood vessels are swimming with glucose molecules,” DiPietro says. So that’s a good time to start.
Going too soon after a meal can slow the digestion process, delaying the blood glucose rise, Cox says.
“If your blood glucose is not elevated, then the exercise isn’t going to lower your blood glucose very much,” Cox says. “It will briefly improve insulin resistance, but if you want to have the biggest impact on lowering blood glucose, your blood glucose has to be high in the first place.”
Try not to wait longer than 90 minutes, Cox says. For those without diabetes, blood sugar goes back down to normal around then.
Tip #2: Walk for at Least 15 Minutes
In a small study coauthored by DiPietro, participants saw blood-sugar benefits with just 15 minutes of post-meal walking. Still, going for 30 minutes or longer can only help.
Cox points out that the amount of sugar in your blood following a meal depends on what you ate. For example, a bagel with cream cheese will boost blood sugar higher than a single piece of rye toast.
“If you eat the bagel, you need a lot more exercise to bring that blood glucose down,” he says, “because there’s more carbohydrate in it.”
Tip #3: Go at a Moderate Pace
“For blood glucose control, you’d be surprised at how little you have to do with regard to intensity,” DiPietro says.
The participants in her study walked at a light-to-moderate pace — about as fast as you’d go when walking a dog or chatting with a friend, she says.
But to improve insulin sensitivity, you’ll need to go a bit quicker, at a moderate to vigorous pace, Cox says. “When I walk, I try to go at a brisk pace and I swing my arms,” Cox says.
Higher intensity can also help if you’re trying to lose weight or improve cardio fitness, DiPietro notes.
Tip #4: If You Can Do Only One Post-Meal Walk, Do it After Dinner
DiPietro and Cox both note that people tend to sit around after the evening meal, but that’s the most important time to take a walk.
ARE YOU 3D STRONG? LIKE, IKEA STRONG? | MOSSA
Hands up if you know a strong brawny dude who will bench press twice his body weight, but then hurt himself swinging a golf club. Or the weight room aficionado, confident with a barbell, who hurts herself doing the spring gardening. And the would-be weekend decorator who, visiting IKEA for the first time, realizes the hard way he is not IKEA strong (that is, having the ability to move heavy, awkward boxes onto a trolley, then into a car, then building the furniture at home without pain or soreness the next day).
How Do We Define 3D Strong?
The competence to perform these life tasks and athletic functions with ease and without pain, discomfort, or injury, is being three-dimensionally strong, or 3D strong, as opposed to 2D strong.
Davis’s Law and Building Your Physical Scaffolding
To clearly appreciate this phenomenon, it helps to understand a term used in anatomy and physiology called Davis’s Law. This law, in its simplest terms, describes how our soft tissues (ligaments, tendons, and fascia) strengthen and build along the lines of demand. The body creates a type of physical scaffolding that is at once strong and resilient and yet pliable and flexible. This creates a type of “play” in our bodies, akin to buildings that are earthquake-proof. Buildings are not made to be earthquake-proof by being stiff and sturdy; they are earthquake-proof because they can move and be moved without breaking.
Let’s take this back to the weight room. Strong brawny dude is super tough when he is lying on a bench pushing heavy loads above his chest. This is a very linear movement, up and down in 2D. His physical scaffolding is being built along the lines of stress – a straight line pushing up. When strong brawny dude hits the golf course for the first time in a while, he is suddenly required to be 3D strong. Golf has a massive rotational component from head to toe. So, when he thwacks the ball, he is asking his physical scaffolding to tolerate fast, end range rotation. It’s the earthquake that his building wasn’t built for.
Bottom line, our body adapts to the way it is used. Exposure to 3D movement makes us 3D strong, and failure to expose ourselves to 3D movement…well, you can smell what I’m cooking.
Loaded Movement Training = Training for Real Life!
Don’t get me wrong; time in the weight training room has many inherent benefits as we become muscle strong. However, when we combine an external load (weight) with three-dimensional movements that mimic real-life lifting, carrying, pushing, swinging, rotating, shoving, pulling, shifting, and shoveling patterns, we are doing what the Institute of Motion (IoM) coined as Loaded Movement Training. We employ this type of exercise to become 3D strong… or as we like to say, movement strong. And when we are movement strong our bodies are more capable, more resilient, and “unbreakable.”
Think about these words: capable, resilient, and unbreakable. Capable is about what your body can do, rather than what it looks like. Don’t you want to feel capable in your body, at a bare minimum? Being capable throws open doors to explore and participate in all that life offers, like having a physical “can-do” attitude. Resilient is the ability to withstand shock, to not be easily damaged, to bounce back. Being resilient means that we can withstand or tolerate the things we ask our bodies to do. Unbreakable means having an “injury-proof” body.
Building An Unbreakable Body
MOSSA is committed to building Loaded Movement Training into all programs that use a barbell, dumbbells, and plates, like Group Power, Group Active and Group Core.
The bottom line is this: we build resilient bodies, brick by brick, or movement by movement. Our overused sedentary postures combined with a lack of three-dimensional, loaded exercises means that our bodies are not as resilient as they could be. Our body adapts to the way it is used. Building an unbreakable body is possible. But it takes effort. And that effort is what will allow all of us to easily go from the weight room to the garden to the golf course to the earthquake of an IKEA showroom, enjoying an active life to the fullest.
MOSSA creates and deliver workouts for the JCC and health clubs worldwide. View our MOSSA Group Exercise class schedule HERE
What are some of the best coping skills out there? How they work depends on the individual, but it is possible to list some coping techniques that are helpful for most.
As with anything, there are assumed rules when talking about coping skills. Some of the coping techniques listed below may be triggers or unsafe activities for individuals. For example, if you have a tendency to self injure you probably shouldn’t attempt an activity involving scissors or other sharp objects. If you are a compulsive exerciser then going out for a run is not a good idea. As a rule, everyone should take care not to overdo, wear appropriate gear (comfortable walking shoes, bicycle helmet), and not use this as permission to engage in compulsive or disordered behavior!
1. Deep Breathing Often when faced with a stressful situation or feeling, our breathing changes. Sometimes we stop breathing altogether, actually holding our breath just trying to “get through it”. In actually this makes the stressful experience more difficult. When you hold your breath, things can become more physically painful and additional adrenaline is released actually causing stress levels to rise. Holding your breath actually results in you being less able to tolerate the stressful situation or feeling.
Taking slow deep breaths helps you remain in control and get through the stress more efficiently. Try deep breathing with another skill listed below and see how well you cope. There are many different breathing techniques – and you’ll have to find the right one for you – I like to suggest that clients young and pretend they are blowing soap bubbles (if you’re inclined you can practice with real bubbles). Tip: take a breath in through your nose, hold it for a moment, and slowly exhale slowly through your mouth.
2. Writing Writing can be an effective means of working through stress. Writing can provide a means of expressing troubling thoughts, as well as gaining a better understanding of what is bothering you. Since keeping stressful thoughts and feelings in often causes them to grow, it is important to give your thoughts and feelings a voice – especially when your feelings are raw. Writing your thoughts and feelings allows you to express freely without worry about what others will think or how they will react.
To get the most out of this exercise, try letting the words just come – don’t focus on coherency, spelling, or neatness, instead just try vomiting the words onto the paper. Write until you feel done.
3. Physical Activity It doesn’t have to be much, even just a brisk walk for 15-20 minutes can help lessen stress reactions and promote a general feeling of well-being. Physical activity causes endorphins to be released, which are the body’s feel-good hormones. Regular exercise can also improve your body’s ability to handle stress in general. It is important not to overdo, wear appropriate gear (comfortable walking shoes, bicycle helmet), and not use this as permission to engage in compulsive or disordered behavior!
Try walking around a new area while listening to your favorite music. It can physically take you away from the stress and perhaps give you a new perspective in the end.
4. Self-Talk So often, if we really listen to ourselves, we are telling ourselves negative things: “she doesn’t like me”, “I’m going to screw this up”, “he’s funnier than I am”. Before you know it, all you’re hearing are negative thoughts whispered in your own voice. This is called negative self-talk, and it is going to have a negative impact on you in most aspects of your life. It becomes really difficult to turn the negative tape off.
Using positive self-talk, you can start to hear words of encouragement and support – whispered to you in your own voice. You will be surprised at how different that feels! Using positive self-talk consistently over a period of time also serves to rewrite the tapes. Try this with deep breathing and see how much better you feel.
5. Art Creative endeavors are a known means of self-expression. Some do not like writing, and sometimes words cannot seem to effectively express your feelings. Try abstraction or conceptualization through other artistic expressions instead.
Grab a piece of paper and some markers or crayons. Fill the page with color. It does not matter what it looks like. Just do what seems to come next. You can focus on the colors and shapes as they form.
Finger painting can be a transformative process allowing you to get fully involved with the expression through the art process.
Grab some magazines, scissors, and glue: make a collage.
When using artistic expression as a coping skill the key is not to focus on the end product, but the process of making the art.
6. Meditation Meditation does not need to be a complex structured process that you learn from years of practice. You do not need to buy a book or watch a video, although many like the structure of a defined process to follow. Videos and audio recordings of mindfulness and other meditations are readily available online or through phone apps.
If you want to engage in a non-structured meditative process right now you can simply sit and shut your eyes. Think of a place that you love or a craft that you could make. Block out other thoughts by focusing on as many of details as can. What does it feel like? How does it sound? Picture the details, the colors, the process. Focus all of your attention, blocking out any other thoughts. You may even fall asleep. Try doing this while taking slow deep breaths and listening to your favorite relaxing music.
7. Puzzles Work a puzzle. Word, number, and logic puzzles can be great ways to refocus from the stress. By getting into a puzzle you get to exercise different parts of your brain. There will not be any room for stressful thoughts. Try a jigsaw puzzle, SuDoku, a crossword puzzle, or a brain teaser. If you are unable to easily immerse yourself in the game, then you may need to try some other coping skills like breathing, positive-self talk, or meditation first.
Once the puzzle, or puzzles are done, you may have a whole new perspective. It is important that you choose a puzzle that you enjoy and believe that you can complete.
8. Music Listening to music is a powerful tool in coping. Music has the power to take the listener along any emotional path chosen.
Pick your music wisely. Choose music that allows you to “feel” in a safe way, but does not create additional distress. As an example, listening to cheery love songs is may not help you cope when you are already feeling sad and alone. Some people have a playlist or artist that always makes them feel a certain way. It is important to create a playlist or identify the perfect artist for a specific feeling before you need to use it to cope – the last thing you want to do when you’re feeling stressed is to make another decision!
As a final note: Sometimes your music should be in the background, sometimes it should fill the room. Know what works for you, and allow yourself to do it.
9. Friends During times of stress, friends can be invaluable. Talking with friends, or even just spending time together, can validate who you are and how you feel. They can provide a caring ear that is ready and willing to listen and support you.
Be aware of who your real friends are. Some people you count as friends, may not actually be your friend in the sense of being there and wanting you to feel the best about you. When you are around them, do you tend to feel put on the spot or defensive? If so that may not be the best choice of person to turn to when you’re trying to cope with a difficult time. Surround yourself with caring supportive people who are quick to jump to your defense and want to protect you from hurt – not people who put you on the spot or feel defensive.
10. Pets Animals can be wonderful calming beings in your life. It does not matter what the animal is as long as you care about them and enjoy them. A recent study (no surprise to pet owners) found that having a dog increases heart health and reduces stress – not to mention how much more fun walks can be!
Take your dog out for a walk. Pet your cat and listen to the purr. Watch your fish, see the smooth glide through the water. Even snakes and rodents can have calm soothing interaction with their owners.
If you don’t have a pet, borrow a friend’s. You can volunteer at a local shelter to spend time with the animals waiting to be adopted, which means having a pass to go and play with the cats or dogs as often as you wish. If all else fails, go on a walk and watch the animals and maybe you’ll find a dog or two to interact with.
PeoplePsych is a Chicago-based therapy group
50 WAYS HEALTHY LIVING MAKES US FEEL MORE COMFORTABLE IN OUR SKIN | Melissa Rudy
What brought you here? Maybe you were on the hunt for weight loss tips, nutritious recipes for your family, motivation and support—or all of the above. Whatever your goals, they probably fell into the bucket of adopting a healthier lifestyle, and the benefits of that go far beyond dropping a few inches or a couple of clothing sizes.
Getting healthy doesn’t simply equate to dropping lots of weight, however. It means gaining strength and confidence, and moving through life with a poise and purpose you never knew you possessed. According to psychologist Lisa Bahar, healthy living includes five key elements: Getting proper nutrition for mood and body, exercising for your body type, recharging with adequate sleep, building mastery by challenging yourself daily, and taking care of your mental health and spiritual well-being.
The next time you find yourself stymied by a setback or discouraged by an inability to break through a stubborn plateau, remember there are dozens of good reasons to continue on your journey, speed bumps and all.
- “For me, exercise is like active mediation. It focuses me and releases all of my daily stresses, so when I look at myself in the mirror, I like what I see.” Shane “The Balance Guy” McLean
- Good nutrition and exercise are contagious. By adopting a healthy lifestyle, you’ll inspire those around you to do the same, and helping others is a powerful mood booster.
- “Healthy living is the foundation of all my relationships–familial, friendship and romantic. Running with a friend after work, trying a new tabata class at the gym with my boyfriend…these are the things that make me happiest and most confident. Without living a healthy lifestyle, I would miss out on so many key moments that make me comfortable in my skin every day.” Kat Haselkorn, Body Conditioning Instructor
- You’ll build more lean muscle mass and get stronger bones (especially if you incorporate weight training), which will make you feel stronger and stand taller. Plus, it reduces your risk for osteoporosis.
- “When one takes care of their health by creating healthy living, the vulnerability to negative emotions decreases, and positive emotions increase.” Lisa Bahar, M.A., CCJP, LMFT, LPCC
- “Healthy living makes us feel more comfortable in our skin because it builds self-confidence. The first thing I work on with my clients is their posture. Rolling the shoulders back, lifting the chin, lifting the spine and pulling in the abdominals immediately sends a signal to the brain of confidence and feel-good waves. Not only will the person with good posture feel good, they’ll send a message of confidence to those around them.” Lizette Perez, Core Candy Fitness
- “Healthy living includes diet and exercise. When you eat good, you feel good, you perform good. Whatever you put into your body is what you will get out. If you clean up your nutrition, you will not only look better, but feel better, as well.” Dr. Matt Tanneberg with Arcadia Chiropractic
- “Investing in myself on a daily basis makes others invest in me. It gives me power to walk with my head held high, because if I won’t treat myself poorly, I certainly won’t let anyone [else] treat me poorly. That power attracts others and affects them positively, until I become a little healthy ball of infective sunshine. So what I’m saying is, living healthy makes me a superhero.” Dina Filice with Stellar Life Coaching
- Exercise helps boost your immune system, so you’ll be less likely to get colds, viruses and other illnesses—and it’s pretty hard to feel good about yourself when you’re sick.
- “Healthy living makes me and my clients feel confident. The fact that they feel strong, fit, lean or simply ‘worked out’ in the morning seems to give them confidence in themselves.” Franklin Antoian with iBodyFit
- “Healthy living allows for growth from bad choices rather than self-shaming. We [all] make mistakes (like eating mac and cheese when you’re not supposed to eat dairy), but instead of perpetuating that bad choice by berating ourselves, we know learn to say ‘no’ to that unhealthy choice next time. Progress, not perfection. Gayle, client of Stellar Life Coaching
- “Feeling good about yourself starts on the inside. Your thoughts, and what you put into your body, all start inside and move out to make you feel good on the outside, which translates into feeling comfortable in your own skin. When you practice consistently healthy living (food, exercise, etc.), that amazingly good feeling on the inside shows on the outside.” Melissa Leavitt, Certified Personal Trainer at Fit Armadillo
- “Choosing a healthy life connects my mind, body and spirit, allowing for peace and serenity.” Dina Filice
- “Healthy living is an alignment of mind, body and spirit. When they’re in harmony, aspects of day-to-day living are less likely to overwhelm you.” Lisa Bahar
- “Living healthy planted an internal value seed, and over the years it has sprouted into all areas of my life. That value has stimulated my confidence and has charged me to ‘act from my power.’ It’s also affected the people I love. Our action becomes an example. When people see the power behind healthy living, they want a piece of the pie.” Dina Filice
- Staying active gives you a boost of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, the natural chemicals that enhance our moods and help us feel happier.
- “Exercise forces you to know your body. Through exercise, you gain self-knowledge and self-appreciation, which are both elements of feeling comfortable in your own skin.” Melissa Leavitt
- People who work out tend to have better coordination, which means you’ll have stronger motor skills for athletic activities and detail-oriented tasks.
- “I can breathe easier. I’m able to deal with my feelings and life. Being healthy creates a manageable coping machine. I can stop, inhale and let it go—and then continue forward—rather than holding my breath until life spins out of control.” Gayle, client of Stellar Life Coaching
- Physical activity helps alleviate chronic pain symptoms, which helps you focus on the positive aspects of yourself—like your strong calf muscles, radiant complexion and shrinking waistline.
- Studies have shown that regular exercise helps to reduce and prevent symptoms of depression, leading to a more positive outlook in all areas, including self-image.
- “When I eat cleaner, I have more energy and fewer sinus headaches. My body feels better and I have less bloating. This make me feel more comfortable wearing my clothes and, in turn, more comfortable in my own skin.” Fitness trainer Cheryl Russo
- Workouts help to relieve the stress of busy lifestyles, so you’ll be more relaxed and in tune with your body.
- “Health reveals positive intentions. It’s challenging, if not impossible, to have negative or poor intentions and live a healthy life. There are no short cuts.” Lisa Bahar
- Exercising outdoors—whether it’s running, walking, hiking, biking or yoga—increases your dose of vitamin D, which is a natural mood booster.
- “Adding some type of fitness routine, whether it’s a power walk, hot yoga or HIIT class, makes me feel energized. I feel I shouldn’t ‘negate’ my workout with poor food choices and will eat healthier, which in turn make me feel healthier. It gives me more of a spring in my step. And I tend to have better posture–I don’t feel as if my stomach is sticking out.” Cheryl Russo
- If you struggle with anxiety, you may find yourself fixated on self-perceived flaws. Studies show that regular exercise helps keep this anxiety at bay.
- “When you follow a healthy lifestyle opposed to the alternative, you will look better. And the better you look, the more confidence you will have in yourself (and the more other people will have in you).” Fitness trainer Rachel Straub
- Daily workouts will help you fall asleep better at night and get more restful, quality slumber, which has a positive impact on all your waking hours.
- “I am investing in myself through healthy foods, which feels good all the way down to my cells!” Kendra Davies with Stellar Life Coaching
- “I’m taking the time to exercise, which stimulates feel-good endorphins and builds a strong heart.” Dina Filice
- “Drinking more water flushes out the digestive system during the day. It adds more elasticity to the skin and also clears it up. It helps lessen cellulite. Just adding enough daily water helps me feel refreshed.” Cheryl Russo
- “I feel like it helps elevate my self-worth. When my self-worth is in a healthy place, I automatically feel okay with myself wherever I am on the journey.” Mariah, client of Stellar Life Coaching
- “Stepping outside of my comfort zone and pushing my limits physically through exercise becomes a daily reminder that the same effort and dedication will result in the same type of progress in other parts of my life as well. It reinforces the confidence that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to, which benefits my career path, internal growth, personal relationships and more.” Mike, client of Stellar Life Coaching
- Achieving a stronger mind/body connection through meditation and breathing techniques will help you expel negative thoughts and welcome positive affirmations.
- “When I practice healthy living, I feel comfortable that I’m doing everything I can to ensure that I get to see my kids grow up and to see my grandkids. This includes eating right, getting enough sleep and staying physically active. I feel that I’m valuing my body and giving it every opportunity to stay healthy, and that makes me feel very comfortable in my skin.” Toby Amidor, nutrition expert
- With every completed workout and healthy meal, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment that will empower and inspire you to do it again, and again and again.
- When you’re fit and healthy, you’ll likely be more open to socializing with friends and developing new relationships, both of which can boost confidence.
- “It makes me feel good about myself because I love myself enough to do whatever it takes, and I’m at peace because I know I’m doing everything possible to live my best.” Robin, client of Stellar Life Coaching
- “I feel I have integrity within myself and I’m proud of the choices I make. I end up talking to myself in a more kind and loving manner and liking who I am. I’m able to be more connected with people because I’m not self-obsessed with shame or guilt about unhealthy choices.” Faith, client of Stellar Life Coaching
- “My self-esteem and value is raised through consistency.” Dina Filice
- When you eat clean, healthy foods, you’ll have more energy to spend on self-improvement activities, including career development, exercise, creative hobbies and personal relationships.
- “Although healthy living requires an ongoing effort, the more dedicated you are to achieving a healthy lifestyle, the better you will feel (emotionally, physically and mentally) regardless of any hardships.” – Rachel Straub
- Quality sleep, which is an important component of healthy living, increases your overall sense of well-being.
- Many healthy, protein-rich foods include tryptophan, an amino acid that helps to produce serotonin, which helps to improve mood and promotes healthy sleep.
- “Healthy living makes me more comfortable in my own skin, in that I know I’m providing my body with what it needs, which then gives me a healthier self-image. This results in a better attitude toward myself, which leads to treating others better.” Nayely, client of Stellar Life Coaching
- Research has linked exercise to a better work/life balance.
- “My mind isn’t agitated and I don’t have remorse about choices I’ve made that could have been healthier, so I rest more comfortably in my skin.” Alex, client of Stellar Life Coaching
- Going to the gym or a group fitness class can be a huge confidence booster, as you get guidance and reassurance from the instructors or trainer, and validation from the new friendships you’ll form.
- “Healthy living becomes my daily affirmation: ‘I am worthy,’ ‘I am powerful,’ ‘I am valuable.'” Dina Filice
What are some things you’d add to this list?
5 THINGS SILVERSNEAKERS INSTRUCTORS KNOW THAT OTHER TRAINERS DON’T | Mandy Walker, SilverSneakers
What makes SilverSneakers classes so special? They’re led by supportive instructors who are trained in senior fitness.
What’s your fitness goal? Improve balance? Gain strength? Prevent injuries or bounce back from one? No matter what your goal, SilverSneakers classes—in person or in your living room—can help you reach it. Even better, you won’t have to do it alone. You’ll have SilverSneakers instructors who are trained in senior fitness to guide and support you. In fact, they’re one of the reasons why SilverSneakers members love our classes.SilverSneakers instructors are uniquely qualified to work with older adults, says Julie Logue, M.P.H., training manager at SilverSneakers. They prioritize exercises that are safe, effective, and can help you move through life with more ease.“Stronger muscles and better endurance make it easier to carry groceries, work in the garden, and even play with your grandchildren,” Logue says.Here’s what SilverSneakers instructors know that other exercise pros may not—and how they can help you on your fitness journey.
Our Instructors Know: How to Keep Your Bones and Joints Safe
SilverSneakers instructors learn common health issues that older adults may experience. For example, bones become weaker with age, making them more prone to fractures. And joints get less flexible due to normal wear and tear.
That’s why SilverSneakers instructors teach you to move smoothly and under control throughout all of their exercises. You’ll avoid quick starts and stops to limit unnecessary stress on your bones and joints.
“We prepare instructors to be strategic about how they work with aging bodies, so that exercises are safe but beneficial,” Logue says.
Our Instructors Know: How to Adapt Exercises for Your Needs
If you have a chronic condition like arthritis, diabetes, or osteoporosis, you might be worried that you’ll hurt yourself if you exercise. It’s a very common fear. Luckily, physical activity is safe—and beneficial—for almost everyone, according to the latest fitness guidelines. The first step is talking to your doctor.
Got the green light to exercise? Good. Let your SilverSneakers instructors know about any health issues or restrictions from your doctor, so that they can modify exercises to help you stay safe.
If you have high blood pressure, for instance, your instructors might coach you to slow your breathing while lifting weights. This will help steady your heartbeat and blood pressure.
“I see a lot of trainers and group instructors teaching very intense classes with high repetitions,” Logue says. “That’s not safe for many older adults.”
Have balance issues? In many SilverSneakers classes, including yoga, you have the option of using a chair for support during standing exercises. Or you can sit down to do seated exercises.
You can also let your SilverSneakers instructors know if an exercise feels too easy. They can suggest safe ways to make it more challenging so you can continue to see results.
If you’re taking a class in person, talk to the instructor before or after class. If you’re taking an online class, take advantage of Zoom’s chat function. See how in our guide to SilverSneakers LIVE.
Our Instructors Know: How to Help Lower Your Risk of Falling
Balance problems often occur with age, thanks to changes in our bones, joints, and muscles. Unfortunately, that also means that one in four Americans age 65 and older will fall each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
One of the best ways to help prevent falls or to recover from a fall: exercise. SilverSneakers classes can strengthen your ankles, knees, and hips for a sturdy foundation. Plus, they can improve your core strength and upper-body posture—you need both to stay upright and steady.
SilverSneakers instructors are also trained to break down workouts into small segments to make them easier to learn, Logue says. And remember, you can always ask instructors for modifications, or use a chair if one is available.
Our Instructors Know: How to Tweak Exercises to Prevent Injury
Some workouts put older adults at a greater risk of injury. SilverSneakers instructors learn specific exercise recommendations to help you avoid sprains, strains, and other issues.
For example, when you’re exercising in a seated position, your instructors will ensure that you don’t bend too far forward or backward, so that you don’t cause pain in your low back. And they’ll skip any movement that places the head below the heart for a prolonged period of time, as it can lead to dizziness.
In addition, when you do exercises that involve your shoulders or hips, you’ll do fewer repetitions, which helps lower your risk of injury.
Our Instructors Know: How to Spark a Love for Fitness
Let’s face it, even if you’re a class regular, some days it can be tough to put on your workout gear and get moving. Or if you’ve never exercised before and are just starting, it can be nerve-racking to show up as a newbie. And when you’re stuck at home, it’s easy to skip working out.
SilverSneakers instructors get it. More than that, they know how to turn fitness classes in person and online into can’t-wait-to-go events with a warm environment. And when you leave, they hope you feel empowered.
“The friendly and supportive tone our instructors bring to every class truly sets them apart from other trainers,” Logue says.
SilverSneakers instructors also bring their own individual styles to classes. Coach Barrett Murphy, the 2019 SilverSneakers Instructor of the Year, loves exercises that work hand-eye coordination. Other instructors are known for explaining how each exercise helps you move in real life or for planning class celebrations for holidays.
Members are also encouraged to support one another—and they do. In fact, they often become great friends and get together outside of class with potlucks or outings around town. What members often say: “We work hard while having fun!”
The JCC offers a full slate of SilverSneakers classes! View our in-person class schedules for Squirrel Hill and South Hills HERE
SHOULD EXERCISE HAVE AN OFF-SEASON? | Cathy Spencer Browning, MOSSA
We all know the term off-season. It broadly categorizes the period, usually when an athlete’s professional season is over, that is dedicated to time off and physical (and mental) recalibration. I bring up this notion of off-season because for many of us who have a committed exercise practice…well, we don’t really have an off-season. But maybe we should!?Taking a Physical VacationCase in point. Last June we were very excited to go on a long-awaited family vacation. We had planned and cancelled this trip twice because of COVID and couldn’t believe we could finally go. It was to be 10 days of well-needed rest and family time on a Greek island called Naxos. Of course, our bags were packed with all our intentions: running shoes, enough dri-fit to get us through a few consecutive days of working out without washing, and workouts downloaded on our MOSSA App…just in case we didn’t have reliable internet.We arrived, settled into our Airbnb, and started to plan how our days would go. “Let’s work out first thing and get it out of the way!” seemed like the right idea. Until island time took over. Everything basically shuts down between 2 and 6 p.m. You don’t even consider dinner until 9 p.m. and everything is so alive and vibrant until at least midnight, your head doesn’t hit the pillow until the early hours of the morning. “How about we work out in the early evening?” was our next plan. But, the 100+ degree temps made it… not the slightest bit fun.So here I was, with my least favorite feeling. I have committed to working out but haven’t yet and now it’s hanging over my head like a dark, damp cloud. It was taking up way too much emotional bandwidth. So, by day three I suggested that we treat our vacation as our off-season. No formal working out. We were already being active, walking a ton, swimming, hiking, and riding bikes. I proposed that we enjoy the rest of our vacation as a time to let our bodies and brains re-charge. I felt like the Greek Gods had come to my rescue!Now…I do want to be transparent. I might have been getting a little antsy by the end of the vacation, but I interpreted that as a good sign. My low grade, niggly, hip flexor injury was completely gone. I had slept a ton, walked for days, ridden up some steep hills on rickety old bikes, and my body felt like a million bucks! I was physically fresh and excited to get back into my routine when I got home. To me that is an indication of a great vacation.Typically, a professional athlete uses off-season for two key things. To develop some type of physical competency that becomes a base for the specific training required in-season, a lineman might be working on power and gaining muscle during off-season, or to recover from injuries. It’s also an important period to have some mental time out from the rigors of in-season, where high levels of motivation and mental tenacity are required.Now most of us aren’t training like professional athletes; we are working out. But there is something to be said for taking a break from the physical things we always do and replace working out with simply “being active.” There is also something to be said for re-charging our motivation muscle. We all know it takes disciplined thought and action to have a regular exercise practice, so just taking it off the table for a little while is like a vacation in itself.An off-season practice is not a one size fits all. I know people that would go literally crazy not working out for that long, but I think there are several different strategies that can be employed. Here are some tips, ideas, and considerations for implementing an exercise off-season strategy.Make a planNext time we go on a family vacation, we agreed that we would decide well before we leave what our intention is going to be. Likely, we will choose activity over exercise. This means we know we don’t have to pack any dri-fit or Lycra, and we can replace our running shoes with hiking shoes. We will build more activity into our planned itinerary and look forward to it as part of our vacation adventure.Replace workouts with work-insAnother strategy I have used before, is to replace all my workouts that are more physically demanding with work-ins. I took my yoga mat and my bands and committed to do Centergy most days, along with all the restorative physical therapy exercises I am supposed to do on an ongoing basis. It was like taking my body to the shop for a tune up. I felt great by the end of the week, like I’d hit a physical refresh button.Change it up and do something differentMaybe you really do still want to work out. I get it. What if you just changed it up for a week? Maybe you use the MOSSA programs that don’t require equipment. Or you run or walk or bike ride. Doing something different is akin to periodizing your workouts.Work on a specific physical outcomeMaybe your flexibility is waning, or you have been doing a lot of heavy lifting and your cardio fitness feels like it has suffered. Just like athletes, you could focus your energy on a different physical goal. Sometimes narrowing your focus expands the results.Choose an activity that adds to your vacationWe discovered in Greece that riding a bike and walking were two activities that added tremendous value to our vacation. Biking and hiking got us to remote beaches we never would have discovered had we driven, and walking was the ultimate gateway to people watching and exploring. Pursue activities that will add to your vacation memories.Strategically plan for an off-season when you know you’ll need itMaybe you have something coming up at work that demands a lot of time and attention. Maybe you have felt a little physically flat. Maybe your motivation muscle is waning a little and mustering up the energy to work out has felt like it takes too much bandwidth. Well, strategically plan an off-season week. Put it in your calendar, make sure you’re covered if you’re a coach or instructor, and decide in advance how you are going to approach it using the ideas above.
A strategic off-season isn’t the same as just getting lazy and falling out of routine. It’s thoughtful, designed, and planned. We do it for a specific intention. In other words, you should be able to plug in the blanks in the following sentence: I am going to replace my regular workout schedule with an off-season strategy. Specifically, I will (blank) in order to achieve the objective of (blank).
The results of a well-timed and well-planned off-season will be a restored mind and body and a motivated return home, where your “usual” will feel unusually welcoming. And we can only hope the ultimate result may be the reward of working for and planning next year’s off-season stay- or vacation.
MOSSA creates and deliver workouts for the JCC and health clubs worldwide. View our MOSSA Group Exercise class schedule HERE
WHEN TO REPLACE YOUR RUNNING SHOES | Brooks Staff
So, you finally found a running shoe perfect for you. Together, you’ve been through miles of road, mud, rain, uphill, downhill, and everything in between. The highest highs. The lowest lows. The wettest wets. You’ve met your match and you’ll never part! Right? Well….Look, we get it. Once you find The One and break in your go-to shoe, breaking up is the last thing on your mind. But trust us, it’s for the best. Even when running shoes don’t seem to be in bad shape, with a lot of wear, they simply can’t perform the way they used to.With time, the outsole weakens and the cushion gets compressed. Whether or not you notice discomfort, worn-down shoes can’t protect your joints from impact. Which means an increased risk of injury. Which means um, no thanks.How long do running shoes last?OK, so they can’t last forever. When should you downgrade your old kicks to dog-walking status?As a general rule, replace your running shoes after 300 to 500 miles (three to six months, depending on how much you run). But what if you’ve lost track — or you want to be extra cautious about overuse?There are some external signs to look for: the bottom or sides are visibly beaten up, the treads are worn out, or the midsole is wrinkling. These are indications it’s time to give your shoes the boot, but don’t rely solely on what you can see.What happens as running shoes wear out?Focus on how your shoes feel and pay attention to changes over time. If your once-trusty pair leaves your legs or feet noticeably tired after each run (and you can’t chalk it up to a more intense training plan or another shift in your habits), it may be that the cushioning has lost shock absorption.If your shoes start to fit differently than they did out of the box, that’s also a sign they’re ready for retirement. The materials have likely stretched or worn down. And don’t discount a vague sense that the ride feels different. That’s grounds for replacement, too.Can you make your running shoes last longer?Eventually, even the best shoes wear out, and you’ll have to call it quits. But you can prolong the magic by taking good care of them while you’re together.First, use your running shoes only for running. Walking or standing for long periods, gym training, and other activities involving lateral motion create an unusual wear pattern — which breaks down the shoes faster. Performance running shoes are designed for one thing, and they’ll have the longest life if that’s all they do.Also, while we don’t generally recommend dishonesty, we do suggest cheating on your favorite trainers. Keep two pairs in rotation, and alternate so you never do consecutive runs in the same shoes. You’ll allow time for each pair to completely dry and the cushion to reset between runs.And on the note of drying: make sure you give your shoes some TLC after a rainy day. If you run in a downpour, through puddles, or in some other condition that soaks or submerges your shoes, take a few minutes to stuff them with newspaper and leave them in a warm place overnight. Avoid heat (dryer, heating vents, sunlight), as it can ruin the synthetic materials in the upper.
Try not to soak them, and just clean the surface. Stuff shoes with newspaper and allow to air dry. Voila. Squeaky clean (without the squeak).
Finally, shoes spend their lives real close to some real gross stuff. An occasional spa day will reinvigorate them. Keep it gentle and don’t use a washer or dryer — the shoes may get stretched or warped. Instead, take out the internal liners and hand wash your shoes with warm water and mild soap.
Try not to soak them, and just clean the surface. Stuff shoes with newspaper and allow to air dry. Voila. Squeaky clean (without the squeak). Learn more about cleaning your shoes here.
While taking good care of your gear should always be a priority, know that even the best-maintained shoes will someday wear out. By all means, treat them well. But treat yourself to a new pair when the old ones run out of juice.
WHY SILVERSNEAKERS MEMBERS LOVE OUR CLASSES | The Editors of SilverSneakers
You’ll get stronger, feel happier, and have fun with new friends!
Whether you’re starting an exercise routine for the first time in your life or looking to mix up your workouts, SilverSneakers classes—virtual or in real life—have something for you. Find out what SilverSneakers members love about our senior exercise classes and the wide variety of options that are available.
You’ll Get Fit and Make Friends
“I’m an almost 80-year-old widow who had not exercised in a very long time,” says SilverSneakers member Sandy Orahoske. “I started July 28 with SilverSneakers LIVE classes for strength and balance. I could hardly do any of the exercises, but I kept going to the classes. By August 26, I could get out of a chair with very little pain. I have more energy. My balance has improved, and I can now stand on one leg at a time.”
Similarly, when SilverSneakers member Pat Minitti started exercising many years ago: “I was stiff. No balance. No flexibility.” Shortly after he began attending in-person classes, he noticed an improvement in those areas—and he felt more capable.
But his favorite part of classes? “The camaraderie,” he says.
He’s not alone. Most people don’t join SilverSneakers to meet new friends specifically, but friendships are what keep them coming back. In fact, 49 percent of active members say that they are motivated to continue exercising because they have a SilverSneakers friend.
And the power of friendship goes beyond exercise. “This place is filled with kindness, smiles, and caring elderly ladies who, like me, go for therapeutic reasons, but who have also formed a family here,” says SilverSneakers member Rosa Juarez. “Some of us have lost loved ones and have also found new friends to love.”
Our Instructors Have Your Back (and Hips and Core)
You’ll encounter SilverSneakers instructors of all ages. Some have spent their entire careers in fitness. Others decided to become instructors in their 60s or 70s.
But they always have two things in common. One, SilverSneakers instructors are trained in senior fitness. Two, they’ll support you on your exercise journey.
“The best part is there’s an instructor,” says SilverSneakers member Marilyn Gillham. “If you’re not using the right muscle the right way or you’re turning your wrist the wrong way, they can help you.”
You’ll also get support in online classes. “I can’t say enough about the quality of the SilverSneakers LIVE classes and your instructors,” says SilverSneakers member Carol Bigelow. “They are all so engaging, encouraging, and talented. These classes have made a huge difference to me.”
Got a bad knee or balance issues? Have a chronic condition like diabetes? Previously had a stroke? Let the instructors know, and they can adapt the exercises for your needs, whether you’re attending class in person or virtually. For example, they can modify a standing exercise so that you can do it seated in a chair.
There’s a Class for You, No Matter Your Fitness Level
What began in 1992 as a first-of-its-kind class for older adults has grown into a program with senior exercise classes for different levels and interests. Now, SilverSneakers classes have evolved to also offer members a variety of options from the safety of their homes. Even better, SilverSneakers members can take as many different classes as they want!
Here’s a sample of what you’ll find.
In-Person Classes – HERE AT THE JCC!
View our Schedules:
SilverSneakers Classic – You’ll move to music through exercises that increase strength and range of motion. A chair is available for support, and you don’t have to get down on the floor for exercises.
SilverSneakers Circuit – You’ll use light weights, resistance tubes, and a SilverSneakers ball for a full-body workout. A chair is available for support.
SilverSneakers Yoga – You’ll move through a series of yoga poses and practice breathing exercises. A chair is available for support.
SilverSneakers Splash – You’ll stay in the shallow end of the pool for a low-impact, joint-friendly water exercise class. The class is safe for non-swimmers.
SilverSneakers BOOM Move – Want a challenge? These fast-paced, high-intensity classes are designed for baby boomers and active older adults.
If you can’t make it to class in person, take advantage of different types of digital workouts led by SilverSneakers instructors. SilverSneakers members can access live fitness classes and wellness workshops through SilverSneakers LIVE. See the latest schedule and RSVP for classes here.
Not a member? If you have a Medicare Plan, it may include SilverSneakers—at no additional cost. Check your eligibility instantly here.
HOW TO LAUGH MORE EVERY SINGLE DAY–AND WHY IT’S SO GOOD FOR YOU | Jessica Migala, Everyday Health
Laughter may not be on your self-care to-do list, but it’s good for your mood, mental health, heart health, and more. Do you need another reason to chuckle right now?
You may have heard that old saying, “Laughter is the best medicine.” Well, it turns out there really is some medicinal merit to a good guffaw.
“Laughter is the physical manifestation of finding something funny, and it can help to reduce inflammation and stress hormones, improve circulation, and enhance the immune system,” says the Everyday Health Wellness Advisory Board member Heidi Hanna, PhD, who is the founder of Synergy Brain Fitness, a consulting company that creates cognitive performance programs, and is also the executive director of the American Institute of Stress. Her claims about laughter are based on evidence published in studies in publications such as the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Journal, Medical Hypotheses, and Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine.
Laughing changes brain activity, explains Hanna, who is also on the board of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor (AATH), a nonprofit organization. Research that looked at the brain activity of people who were laughing showed that laughter can stimulate healing gamma waves, similar to those seen in long-term meditators, according to a study published in April 2020 in the FASEB Journal.
It’s because of this bevy of benefits that Jennifer Ashton, MD, the chief medical correspondent for ABC News, decided to take on a monthlong laughter challenge. “I’m not proud of it, but I’m not someone who works hard, plays hard — I definitely work hard, but I play very little,” Dr. Ashton wrote in her book The Self-Care Solution: A Year of Becoming Happier, Healthier, and Fitter — One Month at a Time, in which she chronicles the challenge. Ashton admitted that she doesn’t often embrace her inner childlike silliness, and that was something she wanted to change.
She brought this silliness into her life by regularly wearing a tiara during the month. She’d wear it as she got ready to film her ABC News segments, kept it on her countertop in her apartment to remind herself to chill out and laugh, and placed it on her head whenever she needed a five-minute chuckle. It never failed to lift and lighten her mood.
6 Tips for Bringing More Laughter Into Your Life
To bring the funny to your life, you don’t even need to laugh out loud, says Dr. Hanna: “Just finding something funny or amusing can have the same benefits.”
Humor allows you to see things in a new and unexpected way, she explains. “It’s not about making difficult things funny or ignoring pain and suffering, but allowing ourselves to also see the lighter side of life more often as a way to release the tension and recharge our own battery.”
Given the year we’ve had, we could all gain from more moments of laughter right now, especially as we move into the uncertainty of winter. Here’s how to bring more giggles and chuckles into your every day.
1. Don’t Worry About Being ‘Funny’
The comedian Paul Osincup, who is the president of the AATH, says you don’t have to be a comedian to laugh more. “Humor is not a talent, it’s a habit,” he says. He suggests not worrying so much about being clever or funny, but instead get in the habit of seeing the humor in everyday situations. For example, if you spill your coffee, laugh about it with whomever you’re with. Here are two lines Osincup loves to use: “Now that I have your attention …” or “It’s just half and half: Half on the table, half on my lap.”
“Everything in life can be drama, horror, or comedy. How often are you looking at it as a comedy?” he says. A good place to start: Laugh, laugh, laugh. If you find something funny, don’t hold back and simply smile to yourself, but push out an audible “Ha ha!” This might feel fake at first, but after a while, you’ll release and laugh naturally more often and louder than before, he says. “The more you play with humor, you’ll get better and better at it.”
2. Curate Your Comedy Collection
“Doomscrolling” — a trendy name for the tendency to consume endless negative news — may be a habit you’ve adopted as of late, but you can change that habit. Instead, surround yourself with more humorous content.
Osincup suggests going on social media and following and liking as many pages as possible that make you laugh, “so humor will show up more often in your feeds.” He also likes the Laughable app, because you can sign up to be alerted when your favorite funny people are guests on podcasts or release a new episode.
3. Take a Laugh Break
Set an alarm on your phone for a “fun break,” advises Osincup. Research in the December 2014 issue of the Journal of Business and Psychology found that a well-planned 15-minute break for humor can bolster productivity, he says.
Start off with five minutes, Osincup recommends. Watch something funny (like a video on YouTube or quick clip of something from late-night TV) and then set a second alarm that cues you to go back to work.
4. Try the ‘3 Funny Things’ Exercise
You’ve heard of the power of a gratitude journal, in which you write down three (or more) good things that happened that day. A humor journal might be just as impactful. Osincup points to a study published in May 2018 in Frontiers in Psychology that found that people who, at the end of the day, reflected and wrote down three amusing things that happened in the day for one week decreased depression symptoms and increased overall happiness for up to six months. “A humor journal trains you to see humor in real time,” he says.
5. Tap Laughter to Learn More
Humor can foster learning by building an emotional connection that strengthens memory, and therefore can help you understand and retain information. The stress hormone cortisol damages the area in the brain that plays a role in learning and memory (the hippocampus). But laughter — a powerful antidote to stress — helps repair that damage and makes it easier to form new memories, according to research published in the Spring 2014 issue of Advances in Mind-Body Medicine.
“Laughter is a language we all recognize, and we feel connected when we smile and laugh,” says the Michigan State University professor Stephen E. DiCarlo, PhD, who coauthored a July 2017 Advances in Physiology Education review on why laughing helps when it comes to learning and health.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Lighten Up
“While I’m a serious person and take what I do seriously, I try not to take myself seriously. I think it’s critical to be able to laugh at yourself,” Ashton writes in her book. Laughing at yourself helps you put mistakes in perspective, deal with hardships, and move past misfortunes, she explains.
Teach yourself to do that with the “What I Should Have Said” game, suggests Osincup. When something happens that’s mildly stressful and you react by being short with someone or stressed out, reflect on how you could have handled that with more humor or lightheartedness. “This trains your brain to see the humor in difficult situations, and it teaches you to let go of some of your stress,” he says.
HOW MANY DAILY WALKING STEPS ARE NEEDED FOR LONGEVITY BENEFIT? | Amanda Paluch
META-ANALYSIS OF 15 STUDIES REPORTS NEW FINDINGS ON HOW MANY DAILY WALKING STEPS NEEDED FOR LONGEVITY BENEFIT
Spoiler alert: It’s fewer than 10,000, especially for older adults, says UMass Amherst lead researcher
A meta-analysis of 15 studies involving nearly 50,000 people from four continents offers new insights into identifying the amount of daily walking steps that will optimally improve adults’ health and longevity – and whether the number of steps is different for people of different ages.
The analysis represents an effort to develop an evidence-based public health message about the benefits of physical activity. The oft-repeated 10,000-steps-a-day mantra grew out of a decades-old marketing campaign for a Japanese pedometer, with no science to back up the impact on health.
Led by University of Massachusetts Amherst physical activity epidemiologist Amanda Paluch, an international group of scientists who formed the Steps for Health Collaborative found that taking more steps a day helps lower the risk of premature death. The findings are reported in a paper published March 2 in Lancet Public Health.
More specifically, for adults 60 and older, the risk of premature death leveled off at about 6,000-8,000 steps per day, meaning that more steps than that provided no additional benefit for longevity. Adults younger than 60 saw the risk of premature death stabilize at about 8,000-10,000 steps per day.
“So, what we saw was this incremental reduction in risk as steps increase, until it levels off,” Paluch says. “And the leveling occurred at different step values for older versus younger adults.”
Interestingly, the research found no definitive association with walking speed, beyond the total number of steps per day, Paluch notes. Getting in your steps – regardless of the pace at which you walked them – was the link to a lower risk of death.
The new research supports and expands findings from another study led by Paluch, published last September in JAMA Network Open, which found that walking at least 7,000 steps a day reduced middle-aged people’s risk of premature death.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, updated in 2018, recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity each week. Paluch is among the researchers seeking to help establish the evidence base to guide recommendations for simple, accessible physical activity, such as walking.
“Steps are very simple to track, and there is a rapid growth of fitness tracking devices,” Paluch says. “It’s such a clear communication tool for public health messaging.”
The research group combined the evidence from 15 studies that investigated the effect of daily steps on all-cause mortality among adults age 18 and older. They grouped the nearly 50,000 participants into four comparative groups according to average steps per day. The lowest step group averaged 3,500 steps; the second, 5,800; the third, 7,800; and the fourth, 10,900 steps per day.
Among the three higher active groups who got more steps a day, there was a 40-53% lower risk of death, compared to the lowest quartile group who walked fewer steps, according to the meta-analysis.
“The major takeaway is there’s a lot of evidence suggesting that moving even a little more is beneficial, particularly for those who are doing very little activity,” Paluch says. “More steps per day are better for your health. And the benefit in terms of mortality risk levels off around 6,000 to 8,000 for older adults and 8,000 to 10,000 for younger adults.”
Amanda Paluch is a University of Massachusetts Amherst physical activity epidemiologist
ALL THAT SITTING GOT YOU DOWN? DE-DESK! | MOSSA
MOSSA creates and deliver workouts for the JCC and health clubs worldwide, as well for the home user, through MOSSA On Demand.
Moving well for life is about more than just exercise. Yes, exercise is important, but at MOSSA we believe that recovery and restoring our bodies is equally vital, to maintain mobility and the uninterrupted ability to move well, with ease, and without restriction.
If you plow fields, hunt for food, work on a construction site, own a landscaping business, or have a physically robust way of earning a living, read no further. You’re golden. But for the rest of us, the ones who spend a decent chunk of time sitting at a desk hunched over a screen, or long periods of time in the car, or devouring Netflix in big chunks…then we need to talk!
You are likely suffering from a “desk’ified” body. Of course, I just made up that word…but it’s descriptive, don’t you think? A “desk’ified” body is a body that is incurring a specific type of stress from being petrified in a single, overused posture, like sitting. Currently, the average American spends 55% of their waking life in sedentary behaviors. And the average office worker spends 10-12 hours sitting each day. Add in the number of hours spent sleeping, and you get a bleak picture of what is happening to our bodies.
Why is Sitting So Bad?
Some of you may be wondering…why is sitting so bad? Is it not relaxing our bodies? (It is not.) Simply, our bodies are designed to be bipedal or upright. The organization of the bones and connective tissues is meant for standing. So, sitting is working against our biology. Our friend Dr. Lauren Polivka has said to me many times, “We are literally creating a new body with all of this sitting and this new body is not how the body was designed to move.”
Yet sitting is unavoidable, and the trouble is that we can’t “out exercise” these sedentary postures…it requires a little more TLC than that. We need ongoing strategies sprinkled throughout the day to combat the negative effects of sitting or being in any continuous posture for too long. We call it De-Desk™ Your Body, and…well, I’ll get to that shortly.
Let me make it real for a second. On Saturdays I teach to friends and family at MOSSA HQ and several of them have gone to see Dr. Lauren for various maladies, often shoulder stuff. It must be an exercise injury, right? NO! So often, they discover that it’s the shoulder on the side of the body that uses the mouse! Yup, something as simple as sitting at a desk and having one hand on a mouse continuously can wreak havoc. Exercise, and sometimes the inability to do an exercise, shines a light on the problem, but the desk posture was likely the source. Said another way, inactivity causes the harm, and activity opens our eyes (and joints!) to it.
Think about it: how many times have you pushed away from a long period of sitting only to find your neck, knees, lower back, and hips feeling stiff and tight? Did you make a noise when you stood up, or feel the need to flex and extend different body parts? Crazy right? It’s not activity causing it – it’s inactivity!
Are We Stuck With Being Stuck?
So where does that leave us? Are we stuck with everyday pains?
Thankfully no, but we must change the way we think about movement and distinguish between working out and working in. Here’s one way of putting it: a workout improves some aspect of physical fitness. It places stress on the body. A work-in, among other things, improves Movement Health and in simple terms, physically de-stresses the body.
Our “desk’ified bodies” need “de-desking,” to de-clench, un-hunch, and reset our posture. And sure, many features of MOSSA programming have De-Desk™ Your Body features baked in, like dynamic, three-dimensional Recovery in Group Power, and Reconditioning in Centergy. But trying to fully de-desk the body during a workout is impossible, because a singular bout of exercise doesn’t undo the negative impact of a day spent in overused postures. It would be like depositing enough money into your overdrawn checking account to get to zero…then going on a spending spree. Every day. For 10 to 12 hours. We have to deposit as we spend, and for de-desking, Dr. Lauren tells us that we need to invest at least five minutes for every two hours we spend sitting.
Essentially, we need what I call movement snacks throughout the day to prevent our bodies from fusing into these postures. Yes, it’s true…in some ways our body locks into these positions. Consider fascia, or the body’s version of Saran Wrap. Picture the Saran Wrap across your hip joints, or in your elbow creases or behind your knees, or across the front of the ankles. Can you visualize it sticking to itself? Can you visualize all the juicy fluids that keep the fascia hydrated and pliable getting pushed and squeezed away, leaving the fascia dehydrated and stiff like a shammy towel that has been left out of its container?
Move More. Feel Better.
Our De-Desk™ Your Body series on Mossa On Demand is the perfect way to reverse locked postures in bite-sized snacks throughout the day. I mentioned it before, but to reiterate the rule of thumb: for every two hours of sitting, complete one short, guided 6- to 8-minute De-Desk™ session.
Having trouble committing? My favorite “habit” strategy is to habit stack. Habit stacking, a method popularized by James Clear and outlined in his fantastic book Atomic Habits, is the process of capitalizing on the fact that we already have well-ingrained habits, or habits that no longer cost us too much bandwidth. Brushing our teeth, taking a shower, and making a coffee prior to getting to our desk are all examples of things we do almost on auto pilot. Stacking a new habit that is a little more costly to our motivation bank account, on top of something that costs nothing, helps to ingrain the habit.
Here are some ideas:
• Combine the habit of getting water with de-desking
• Combine the habit of going to the bathroom with de-desking
• If there are some simple automatic processes, you do each day at work, like a call you need to make or a report you run, can you multitask and de-desk your body at the same time?
• Could you combine your mid-morning or mid-afternoon actual snack with a movement snack?
James Clear is also famous for saying, “You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.” In other words, de-desking your body will never happen unless you create a specific system. And great news: our six guided sessions leave you with no guesswork and no excuses.
If you want to feel better in your body, start with a quick head-to-toe checklist. Is your head jutted forward? Is your chin tucked toward your neck? Shoulders rounded and/or shrugged? Arms bent and stationary? Hips flexed? Glutes sleeping in a chair? We’ve gone far enough! Make a commitment to Movement Health and create a plan to take a de-desking break every couple of hours…starting now!
GROUND TO STANDING: GET DOWN WITH GETTING UP | Cathy Spencer Browning
Around here at MOSSA I have been nicknamed “Muma Browning.” It is usually in reference to when I am giving a bit of a pep-talk or, as my daughters would say, giving a bit of a lesson. So, I am going to put on my Muma Browning hat and talk to you about how important it is to get down with getting up.
The ability to get down to the ground confidently and competently and then stand up again is one of the most essential human movement skills we can maintain (or reclaim). In fact, our friends at the Institute of Motion (IoM) suggest that it is one of life’s Six Fundamental Movement Patterns, along with walking, bending, rotating, squatting, and lunging.
In our real lives, we do quite a lot on the ground (tie shoes, play with kids, garden, look under the bed, sit on the grass, pick up something from the floor, get a golf ball out of a hole…) and the movement up and down requires a lot: mobility in our joints (knees, hips, and ankles), balance, relative strength (the ability to move your own bodyweight around in space), and coordination.
In fact, “Ground to Standing,” as it’s commonly known, can be considered a type of measuring stick for all the things I just mentioned. Your ability to go to the ground and up means you have the “ability”; not being able to go to the ground and up means you have a “disability.”
What’s more, studies show that a person’s ability to get down to and up from the ground with ease directly correlates with their remaining life expectancy. Brazilian physician Claudio Gil Araujo measured how easily (or challenged) his patients could move into a seated position on the ground and then return to a standing position (details below). This study’s data showed that the simple act of being able to get up off the ground with ease was associated with reduced mortality rates (lower risk of death). Simply put, not only is the ability to get up from the floor a deceptively simple measure of flexibility, strength, and balance, but it heavily factors into who will live longer and whose lives will be cut short.
Dr. Araujo followed over 2,000 adults ages 51 to 80 for an average of 6+ years. Each volunteer was asked to sit down on the floor and then get up, using the least amount of support possible from hands, knees, and other body parts. Researchers used a point system where 10 was a perfect score. One point was deducted each time the person used a hand, knee, or other body part to get up or down. Half a point was deducted for “wobbly” movements. If the person could not get up and down, they received a score of zero.
Dr. Araujo determined that people who scored fewer than eight points on the test were twice as likely to die within the next six years compared with those who scored higher. Those who scored three or fewer points were more than five times as likely to die within the same period compared with those who scored more than eight points. In the end, each positive point value meant a 21% decrease in mortality.
Do you know how you’d score? Aren’t you curious? Well go ahead, measure. And don’t stop there; measure your parents, your kids, your aunts, uncles, and friends.
Here is what I know to be true and excuse me while I get all Muma Browning again. Besides those who have a genuine issue that prevents this movement, many simply engineer Ground to Standing out of their life…they just WON’T DO IT. And before long the I WON’T turns into I CAN’T. It’s that simple. By choosing to not do it, our body slowly loses the ability. And sorry for the cliché, but we all know: if we don’t use it, we lose it. But here is the exciting caveat. Our body is so responsive, that we can retain or reclaim our ability to do this movement at just about any age. How? Well, just do it! (See what I did there!)
And if you have trouble motivating yourself to do it alone, then don’t worry. The Ground to Standing movement category is so important that we have baked it into almost all MOSSA programs. For example, Ground to Standing patterns are used in the Core tracks in both Group Active and Group Power, as well as throughout the Group Core workout. Really, Ground to Standing patterns have been part of MOSSA programming for many years, like anytime we have done a burpee in Group Blast, a sprawl in Group Fight, or anytime we move from Down Dog to Mountain Pose in Group Centergy. Based on all available evidence, we now look at Ground to Standing patterns as an indispensable part of a balanced training protocol.
One of the things I have always taught my daughters is that you “do what you have to do so that you can do what you want to do.” This was mostly related to doing their chores so that they could go and play with friends, and nowadays it might be doing their homework so they can borrow the car; but I believe it applies to a lot of things. Maybe practicing Ground to Standing is the “have to do” so that you can enjoy all the things you “want to do.” It is about enjoying a physically robust and active life – no matter our age!
Cathy Spencer Browning is VP of Training & Programming for MOSSA, our Group Exercise programmer.
GET DOWN WITH GETTING UP at the JCC: View our full Group Exercise Schedule HERE
COULD I BE LOW IN VITAMIN D? | webmd.com
What’s Vitamin D? Your body uses it to absorb minerals like calcium and phosphorus. That makes your teeth and bones strong. Vitamin D also supports your muscles, nerves, and immune system. You can get it from sunshine on your skin and from eating eggs, fatty fish, and fortified foods like milk and cereal.
Maybe because your body doesn’t:
- Get enough sunshine
- Get enough from food, especially if you’re vegan or can’t eat dairy
- Absorb vitamin D as well as it should, or it gets rid of it too quickly
Black people in the U.S. typically have lower levels of vitamin D than their white peers, as darker skin has natural sun protection and needs longer sun exposure to make the vitamin. But they are relatively less affected by lack of vitamin D, as measured by weak bones, falls, and fractures.
The population of adults over the age of 65 is rapidly rising, leading to more people hoping to age well. However, aging is associated with a natural decrease in physical and physiological health which can lead to increased disability, dependence, and risk of comorbidities due to declining muscle strength and mass.
The Impact of Muscle Strength Loss
While skeletal muscle mass decreases by 20-30 percent throughout adulthood, or roughly 3-8 percent per decade after the age of 30, loss of muscle strength is more greatly associated with a decrease in function. Muscle strength loss leads to decreased power that is required for activities of daily living (ADLs). This can be partially due to disuse, poor protein synthesis, and chronic inflammation caused by hormonal and metabolic changes.
Loss of strength and muscle mass can lead to bigger problems that most patients are more concerned about, the primary trouble being falls. While only one in five falls requires medical attention, those that do can lead to a dramatic loss in overall function and most older adults do not return to their previous function. A hip fracture can lead to a 22-29 percent increase in the risk of mortality in one year.
How to Combat the Effects of Aging
Regular resistance training, even starting late in life, has been proven to not only reverse muscle loss due to aging but also improve muscle strength and mass while rebuilding muscles to be more oxidative and powerful.
Regular strength training can lead to increased metabolism, quality of life, strength, and endurance while decreasing cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults incorporate regular resistance exercises two times per week focused on the major muscle groups, and that older adults add an additional one day per week of multidirectional movement such as dance, tai chi, or pickleball.
Resistance and Balance Programs Specific to Older Populations
With the population of older adults increasing and strong evidence for strength and resistance training, rehabilitation professionals are in a unique position to make a major difference. Most studies show that regular group exercise that is challenging, variable, and progressive is the best way for older adults to gain strength and build resiliency. Given that this exact kind of program may be difficult for your client to access, the following guidance will help curate the best resistance and balance program for the older adult in your care:
1. Dynamic Resistance Exercises
As with building up general strength and conditioning programs for athletes and other patients, the goal of a strength program for an older adult is simple: Choose eight to twelve exercises to be performed two to three times per week. The challenge for an older adult comes with designing functional exercises that usually involve multiple muscle groups and require little equipment.
Utilizing bodyweight exercises, along with easily found or inexpensive weights, is key for this population. Don’t be fooled by a person’s outward appearance. Many older adults can still perform challenging exercises. They just need to be encouraged to do so to increase muscle strength and mass. Along with creating challenging exercises, make sure that exercises are varied with speed and direction to improve power and control.
2. Multidirectional and Complex Movements
When designing a training program for older adults, it’s essential to use multidirectional and multi-joint movements. This helps train the body systems to work together, along with making the exercise more functional and pertinent to everyday tasks. Using big muscle groups and movements helps to keep the exercises simple and easy to do while challenging the body to do lots of different tasks at once.
Focusing on simple exercises that challenge the system in a complex manner helps create a meaningful exercise. Including a balance component is additionally beneficial. Some great examples of these exercises include marching with trunk rotation, wall push-up with rotation to side plank, calf raises with a hold at the top and eccentric lowering, and biceps curls with a narrow base of support.
3. Balance Exercises in All Conditions
Falls are a large concern for the aging population. Be sure to complete regular fall risk assessment and screenings so that you’ll be able to detect a decline in balance before a fall occurs. When training for balance there are a few key principles to keep in mind.
Balance can be divided into two main categories: proactive and reactive. Proactive balance is the process of anticipating a predicted disturbance. Reactive balance is the process of compensating for the disturbance. Interestingly, there is little carry-over in function when training for balance, so it is best to work on training balance under all conditions to achieve the best results.
Balance exercises must be challenging enough to cause mild unsteadiness or loss of balance, however not so challenging that the patient falls or cannot maintain the position for more than a few seconds. Using varied surfaces and distraction techniques, as well as incorporating dual and multi-tasking during balance exercises will help your client create a more robust balance system.
4. Focus on Function
Functionality is a key component of creating exercises for older adults, especially incorporating ADLs. Creating and emphasizing exercises that focus on functional limitations and daily activities will help to improve overall health and wellness. Individualize exercises to the needs and difficulties of the older adult with whom you are working and pay attention to potential limitations.
5. Make It Fun and Meaningful
Ensure that an older adult’s exercise program is compatible with their life and helps them focus on their goals. The best-designed program only helps if the client is going to do it. Listening to your client’s goals and wishes and consistently relating exercises to what they want to achieve will not only help with buy-in but also with regular adherence.
A Key Aspect of Health
Regular resistance training is a key aspect of health for people of all ages, but it is especially important for older adults. There are significant physical, physiological, and mental benefits for older adults, including critical injury prevention factors that will help decrease falls and mitigate cardiovascular and metabolic disease risks.
*With classes and programs including Boom, Balance/Arthritis, water exercise, personal training and so much more, the JCC is the place to combat the effects of aging! Check out our programs for older adults HERE
Molly Gries, PT, DPT, OCS, CertMDT, practices at Movement Systems Physical Therapy in Seattle, Washington. This was published on https://www.medbridgeeducation.com/
CROSS-TRAINING? YES. CROSS-PROGRAMMING! | Cathy Spencer Browning
Variability, Variety, and the Four Big Buckets
Cross-Training usually has technical connotations when it comes to exercise. It is a technique used by athletes to engage in alternative sports or varying types of exercise in order to improve fitness or performance in their main sport. Participating in well-rounded, diverse training has multiple benefits, most notably, improved performance and less chances of overuse injury. But creating a well-balanced exercise program isn’t just simply mixing up cardio, strength, and mobility training each week. It takes a smarter, more thoughtful and intentional approach.
At MOSSA we encourage a similar idea – let’s call it “cross-programming” because, let’s face it, not all of us are training to become elite athletes. You might be exercising to be healthy and fit, to be more active in life or in a new sport or hobby, or you might be a weekend warrior training for your first triathlon.
Either way, we strongly encourage everyone to “cross-program.” Now don’t let me get started on the wrong foot – if you love Group Power and do Group Power two or three times a week, by all means, don’t stop. In building each workout, we ensure that Group Power, in fact all MOSSA programs, have enough “baked in” variety that you are already getting a good bit of diversity in your workouts.
As a general rule, variety is great. In fact, our bodies LOVE variety. In technical speak we call this principle “variability”. Variability is exercising and moving in different ways in order to build well-rounded, resilient, ready-for-anything bodies. Here is a good way to assess if you have enough “variability” in your workout life.
IoM, the Institute of Motion has broken these different types of mechanical loading into four big buckets.
Bucket One: Unloaded Linear Training
The first bucket is unloaded linear training, where we are moving in one direction or one plane of motion, without an external weight of any sort. Think of running or walking. This category of work might be used for relative strength and stability training, such as bodyweight movements that all move in a single plane of motion, such as traditional squats or pushups (bodyweight only). Now of course we have components of this in most MOSSA programs; while we can’t run far distances, we still do run, and we use The STEP on occasion in a linear way. And if you’ve ever tried Active, Blast, Fight, or Power, you know we do plenty of unloaded (bodyweight) squats and pushups – that’s for sure!
Bucket Two: Unloaded Three-Dimensional Training
The next bucket is still unloaded (without an external load), but it involves moving in multiple directions or planes of motion. This includes all kinds of sports like soccer and basketball, as well as dancing and martial arts. You might think of this as “three-dimensional” training because the body is moving in multiple directions, not just “front to back” like running. The benefits of three-dimensional training are that it conditions the nervous system, improves dynamic stability, and enhances speed, agility and quickness. Unloaded three-dimensional training is at the heart of our programs Group Centergy, Group Fight, and Group Groove.
Bucket Three: Loaded Linear Training
The third bucket is when we carry an external load, like a barbell or dumbbells but we only move them in a linear fashion. This encompasses most traditional strength training, along with indoor cycling (the external load comes from resistance on the wheel). We might use this category to train for maximal strength, muscle hypertrophy (increase in muscular growth), and for increases in the hormones that build muscle. Group Power, our strength training program spends a good amount of time in this area, especially when we do classic strength training movements like squats, lunges, deadlifts, bicep curls, and overhead presses.
Bucket Four: Loaded Movement Training
Finally, the fourth bucket, the bucket most often left behind when it comes to exercise, is three-dimensional movements that use an external load. The technical name for this type of training is “Loaded Movement Training,” a phrase coined by Michol Dalcourt at IoM. Loaded Movement Training, which can be thought of as chore-based movement patterns with a load, offers several benefits, including improvement in multi-directional stability and strength, and major improvements in muscular coordination. This type of training has less compressive forces because the load is distributed across many joints rather than just loading one joint repetitively. At MOSSA, we use a ViPR Pro, weight plates, and even dumbbells to perform Loaded Movement Training. For example, when we use the plate in Group Core, you are doing Loaded Movement Training.
Cross-Programming = Cross-Training
You can see that each type of training has its own pros and cons. The win-win of cross-training (and “cross-programming”) is that you can draw from the benefits of different types of training while avoiding the cons that may occur when someone only does one, single type of training. Building variety into your weekly workout types, ensuring that you are pulling from each bucket, also means that you are reducing how much “repetitive” wear and tear you are placing on the tissues and the joints.
Let’s play out some scenarios to illustrate this point. If you are an avid runner who is always training in the straightforward (sagittal) plane of motion, then it would do you a world of good to find some kind of exercise that gets you moving in many different directions. We recommend you try a Group Fight or Group Groove workout or add some Group Centergy into your life in place of one of your runs. Your body and joints will love you for it because you’ll be moving them through their full range of motion, rather than in a smaller (running only) range of motion repetitively.
Maybe you are a Group Fight fanatic. While there is always some good quality bodyweight strength training in Group Fight, your body will also love the benefits of training with an external load (found in 3D30, Group Active, Group Core, Group Power). This will strengthen and fortify your joints as well as give your strength building hormones a bit of a boost! Importantly, this is one of the best ways to build bone density.
Finally, if you have always loved to do traditional strength training, and then you go for a run for your cardio, how about choosing something that has you stepping outside of the box (and into another bucket)? Your coordination will be challenged, and your Movement Health will improve when you move in a multi-dimensional way. Remember, moving in a variety of planes and ranges of motions is more closely connected to real life biomechanics – which translates into real life benefits.
We’ve Got Your Cross-Training Covered
Good news. At MOSSA, we deem this kind of cross-training so important, that we include all four buckets in all of our MOSSA programs. (We are limited in programs that do not include an external load. But, yes! We’ve even got some three-dimensional movement in our cycling programs … off the bike of course!). Training in all four buckets ensures that you’re not only getting a great bang for your time buck, but that you’ll become a better mover, be more resilient, and feel better in your body.
Cathy Spencer Browning is VP of Training and Programming for MOSSA, which provides the JCC with much of our Group Exercise programming.
Learn more about how you can Cross-Train/Cross-Program at the JCC HERE
JUST 5 HOURS OF MODERATE EXERCISE A WEEK CUTS YOUR CANCER RISK | Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, Oct. 22, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Just a few hours a week of moderate exercise may reduce your risk of cancer, a new study suggests.
If Americans got the recommended five hours a week of moderate-intensity physical activity, more than 46,000 cancer cases could be prevented in the United States each year, according to the report.
The study authors said that 3% of all cancer cases in U.S. adults aged 30 and older from 2013 to 2016 were attributable to inactivity. More inactivity-related cancer cases occurred in women (almost 33,000) than in men (nearly 14,300) each year.
Are these folks lazy? Not necessarily.
Many Americans face barriers to physical activity, the researchers said, including: lack of time due to long hours in low-wage jobs; the cost of gym memberships or personal equipment; lack of access to a safe exercise setting; and childcare costs.
Such barriers are more common among certain groups of people, including Black Americans and those with low incomes, according to study leader Adair Minihan, of the American Cancer Society, and colleagues.
When the researchers focused on types of cancer, they concluded that about 17% of stomach cancers, 12% of endometrial cancers, 11% of kidney cancers and 9% of colon cancers were associated with lack of exercise. So too were an estimated 8% of esophageal cancers, 7% of breast cancers and 4% of urinary bladder cancers.
States with the highest proportion of cancers attributable to physical inactivity were in the South, including Kentucky, West Virginia, Louisiana, Tennessee and Mississippi. The lowest proportions were in the Mountain region and northern states, including Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Washington and Wisconsin.
Kentucky had the highest proportion (almost 4%) while Utah had the lowest (about 2%).
“These findings underscore the need to encourage physical activity as a means of cancer prevention and implement individual- and community-level interventions that address the various behavioral and socioeconomic barriers to recreational physical activity,” the study authors explained in a cancer society news release.
“Understanding and reducing the behavioral and socioeconomic barriers to physical activity is essential for optimizing intervention strategies targeting at-risk groups across the country,” the team added.
WEARING A MASK WHILE EXERCISING | Jeremy Amundson
Wearing a mask is one way to slow the spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19. Yet many people see a mask as a potential barrier when attempting to exercise, particularly when away from home. Whether you’re already comfortable wearing a mask while exercising or hesitant about exercising with a mask on, these questions can help you decide the safest way to approach staying active.
Is it safe to wear a mask while exercising?
Yes, it’s safe to wear a mask while exercising. New research has shown that your heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, oxygen level and time of exhaustion are not significantly affected by wearing a mask during moderate to strenuous aerobic physical activity. Learn more.
Depending on the activity, is there a preferred type of mask that I should wear?
Cloth masks or masks made of a moisture-wicking material, such as polyester, typically work well. Mask material should be no more than two layers thick or less. Unfortunately, surgical masks may break down, as they become wet from sweat and increased exhalation that occurs during exercise.
Aside from the mask breakdown, the use of surgical or N95 respirators has been found to be safe with minimal effects on major performance factors, such as heart rate, respiration rate, blood pressure and oxygen saturation (SO2) during aerobic training.
Previous studies of wearing N95 respirators while active have shown that there can be changes in body temperature, increased breath resistance and some discomfort. While not dangerous or affecting overall performance, these responses should be considered when choosing the style of mask that is right for you and your needs. Learn more.
Also, you may want to consider having a spare mask on hand to replace a damp mask. A great way to maintain good hand hygiene when changing masks is to carry a travel-size container of hand sanitizer with you.
Will wearing a mask affect my exercise performance?
No. Research has determined that surgical masks and cloth masks have no effect on time to exhaustion or peak power. Learn more.
Who should not use a mask while exercising?
It is safe to wear a mask while exercising for most people. However, if you have a chronic lung disease, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, mesothelioma or pulmonary hypertension, talk with your health care provider before attempting any physical activity while wearing a mask.
What should happen when exercising with a mask on?
You may feel awkward or uncomfortable the first time you wear a mask while exercising. This is normal and may be similar to how you felt wearing a mask at work, school or while shopping. These feelings should decrease over time. Overall, you can expect no difference in your aerobic or anaerobic performance.
If you start to feel any of these symptoms while exercising, stop and take a break until they subside:
Significant shortness of breath
If your symptoms continue or worsen, stop the activity. In serious cases, seek medical help.
From the Mayo Clinic, “Speaking of Health.” Jeremy Amundson is a licensed athletic trainer in Sports Medicine in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
This post was updated on Jan. 6, 2021, to reflect newly published research. The information is accurate at the time of its posting. Due to the fluid nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientific understanding, along with guidelines and recommendations, may have changed since the original publication date in September 2020.
FOR YOUR HEALTHIEST YOU IN ’22: START WITH COLOR | Victoria Brown
Working to be your healthiest you in 2022? Start with color!
Fill half your plate with bright vegetables and fruits at each meal. Enjoy your snacks with a produce punch by adding carrot sticks, fresh fruit or bell peppers. Here’s a colorful, tasty and nutritious recipe:
Roasted Beets and Citrus Salad
4 Beets (different varieties if possible)
1 Blood Orange
2 TBSP Chopped Shallots
1 TBSP Finely chopped Fresh Rosemary
2 TBSP Apple Cider or White Wine Vinegar
1 TBSP Dijon Mustard
4 TBSP Olive Oil
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grate 1 TBSP of zest from one orange and juice ½ of the orange.
- Split the beets into varieties. Place each variety into the center of a large piece of foil. Drizzle olive oil, orange juice, orange zest, salt and pepper. Wrap each bundle and roast for 40 minutes.
- Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper. Peel Citrus and remove pitch, slice into rounds and drizzle with olive oil and salt. Roast for at least 5 minutes with beets then broil for 2 minutes.
- Mix the dressing. Place all ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously.
- Wait for the beets to cool and then peel and slice. Serve with roasted citrus alone or over a bed of arugula. Pair with goat cheese or burrata, pistachios, and a drizzle of honey.
CARDIO OR WEIGHT LIFTING TO LOSE OR MAINTAIN WEIGHT? | Chris Centeno, MD
You’ll hear and read all sorts of advice on whether you should lift heavy weights or do cardio to lose or keep off weight. In addition, the pendulum keeps swinging back and forth on this one. Back in the 80s and 90s it was aerobics and running. Then about a decade ago it was lifting heavy weights. A new study sought to answer this age-old question and the results are important.
Cardio vs Weights
The story that supports cardio for weight loss or maintenance is that you simply burn more calories. The story for lifting heavy weights is that you make your muscles bigger which then uses more calories. So which is it?
The New Research
Most of the old research in this area is retrospective, meaning someone looked backward to see if they could find associations. The new research I’d like to highlight is prospective. Meaning the scientists put a research design in place and then looked forward to determine if there were differences between the groups.
Almost twelve thousand people were enrolled into an aerobic exercise study in 1987 that continued through 2005. The study participants were followed for an average of 6 years to determine who did and did not develop obesity. Compared to people who did not perform resistance exercise (71% of participants), those who performed 1–2 hours/week or at least 2 days/week of resistance exercise had a 20%–30% reduced risk of obesity, even after adjusting for aerobic exercise. The lowest risk for becoming obese was found in people who performed both resistance exercise and aerobic exercise.
The upshot? I’ve always thought it was better to split the baby on this one and do both of these as much as possible. So make sure to lift weights and get your cardio in!
(1) Brellenthin AG, Lee DC, Bennie JA, Sui X, Blair SN. Resistance exercise, alone and in combination with aerobic exercise, and obesity in Dallas, Texas, US: A prospective cohort study. PLoS Med. 2021 Jun 23;18(6):e1003687. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1003687. PMID: 34161329.
Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications.
LET’S START A RESOLUTION! | Brittany Reese
Happy New Year! This time of year is great to reflect and plan. What do we want to do with our fresh, shiny new year? Do we want to take that trip we’ve always wanted to, tackle a new challenge, get a new job or career, or continue to work towards some of the goals we have tried before but haven’t quite accomplished yet? It can seem overwhelming to look at the coming year as a whole. So this year I propose doing something different: Making monthly goals.
How easy is it to let go of those resolutions once February comes around? It seems so easy since we haven’t even made it halfway yet to the completion of our goal. The end results or reward is so far away and it is easier to do nothing since the reward won’t be there whether we do it or not.
Instead of making a goal that may take 6-12 months, how about a goal that can be achieved in a month? Wouldn’t it be much more satisfying to be able to end January knowing that we’ve checked one box already? I’m not sure about you but I love being able to cross things off my list. It gives me a sense of accomplishment and the confidence to tackle the next task/goal.
Also, by having smaller goals we can potentially get more done! (Gasp!) It is hard to try to change more than one to two things at a time; therefore a resolution can only be one to two things. But, what if what we want to accomplish this year can’t just be boiled down to those parameters? What if we want to get to the gym more, save for a trip AND de-clutter our house? Do we have to settle? I don’t think we should.
Having this approach can help us to accomplish more and stop procrastinating. You no longer have 12 months to do the task, you have 30 days! So you better get a move on! Setting monthly goals can also help us to slowly build healthier habits over time. So now that large goal of de-cluttering your house can be done room by room over the course of several months, checking boxes along the way. Being successful can have a snowball effect, as we become more and more successful we also become more confident in our ability to tackle the next challenge.
Whatever your goals are for 2019, let’s try something new in order to achieve those elusive resolutions!
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
— Albert Einstein
Brittany Reese is a registered dietitian, personal trainer, group exercise instructor and food lover. This post was first published in 2018.
Oh no! Here they come! Are you bracing yourself for cookie trays, gratuitous boxes of chocolates and endless office parties? I just saw my first Whitman’s Sampler yesterday. And that’s just the beginning! But if you think I’m about to advise you to drink a gallon of water before every party, head for the raw vegetable tray at the buffet table, or virtuously decline every delicious morsel that enters your personal space, you obviously don’t know me!
Food is more than a collection of nutrients and calories. It’s soulful, it’s emotional. What we eat ties us to memories, to family and friends, and to the rich traditions that make up our lives. I am a firm believer that we should make room for the joys of good food in our lives. Does that mean we should try every flavor in the Whitman’s Sampler? No, it’s not about unbridled indulgence. It’s about enjoying life’s pleasures in a way that doesn’t leave us feeling gross or guilty.
We are all different of course. For some people, total abstinence from sweets and treats is the best solution. But my favorite way of getting through the holiday eating period is to bring sanity, moderation and – you guessed it – mindfulness to the whole thing. Faced with a buffet of food, think about what you most want to try or think you would enjoy the most, take a small portion of it, and enjoy the heck out of it! You don’t need to sample everything. I hesitated by the chocolate box last week, then rehearsed in my mind what it would taste like, and realized that I don’t find those chocolates all that yummy. That little moment of hesitation and thoughtfulness allowed me to stop a chocolate sampling binge in its tracks. Because the truth is, if it doesn’t taste as good as you want it to, you might eat MORE – looking for just that perfect chocolate.
Better to eat food that makes me feel good, like a healthy snack, but allow myself some other seasonal treat when it appears; say no to endless chocolates, and yes to a cup of eggnog once a year. And please don’t starve yourself before a party! It makes it harder to eat with moderation later. If you try to keep eating enough delicious healthy food every day to keep yourself feeling satisfied, you really will be less inclined to go wild when the treats show up. And if you pay attention to how you feel and remember what it feels like to overeat or have 3 different kinds of cake, you’ll find it easier to slow down. It’s not about deprivation – it’s about being kind to yourself.
So please, enjoy parties, friends, family and, yes, food through the holiday season. Take a deep breath and bring a little mindfulness to your eating, and you’ll do just fine. And if you DO overindulge, do yourself a favor and take a peek at this excellent post about moving on and starting anew!
This post was first published December 7, 2016
HOW DOES EXERCISE HELP RELIEVE STRESS? | Laurie Wood
According to a recent survey by the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, seven out of ten adults in the United States say they experience stress or anxiety daily, and most say it interferes moderately with their lives. Although it’s impossible to totally eliminate stress, we can learn to manage it, and physical activity is a healthy way to maintain mental fitness.
How does exercise help relieve stress? The Mayo Clinic provides the following explanations:
- Physical activity increases the brain’s endorphins, which are like feel-good neurotransmitters. Those who have experienced a surge of energy or “runners high” after exercising, understand this feeling.
- Exercise is like meditation in motion because it allows a person time to concentrate on their body’s movement and focus on a single task. Results often include having more energy and optimism.
- Regular exercise can improve your mood, increase self-confidence and lower symptoms associated with depression and anxiety. It also helps improve sleep which can be disrupted by stress.
With so many options to exercise at the JCC, try them all and make sure to schedule exercise as part of your regular routine not only for your physical health but also for your mental health!
HOW TO STAY MOTIVATED WHEN IT GETS DARK EARLY | Chakell Wardleigh
TRY TRX | Elaine Cappucci
You’ve seen the black and yellow straps hanging from the gym ceiling and wondered if you could do that. Well, you can! They may look intimidating, but your trainer or TRX instructor can help you add TRX into your workout if you are looking for a way to spice up your training.
TRX, which stands Total Body Resistance Exercise, uses your body weight and gravity, and the instability of the straps as resistance to build strength, balance, coordination, flexibility, and core strength. Because the straps move while you perform and exercise, you must use your core stabilizing muscles even when doing an exercise that targets your arms or legs. So why wouldn’t you add in some TRX exercises when strength training since you can do just about every exercise that you can do with barbells and dumbbells with the added bonus of working secondary muscles for a complete workout in a short time?
But that isn’t all you’ll be doing, according to the American Council on Exercise, TRX workouts can lead to increases in lean body mass, and significant decreases in waist circumference, body fat, and blood pressure. And it does so more effectively that traditional aerobic exercises.
Our trainers can design TRX exercises for people of all abilities, ages, and fitness levels, from the beginner to the seasoned athlete. There are endless exercise possibilities, so the workout is never the same old thing, it’s always fun! Perhaps the best part of TRX training is that because of the instability of the strap, you will learn to execute exercises properly, which will help you with all of your other workouts and daily movement patterns.
Here’s what some of our members have to say about TRX training:
“I have been doing TRX for about 10 years and it’s a great overall body exercise. You use your own body weight for resistance and make it easier or harder by repositioning your straps.”
“The TRX class is a fun, non-strenuous, total body way to get or stay in shape. You can do it at your own pace. The instructor guides you through the entire workout. I have been doing TRX for 4 years and I feel better now (at age 75) than I did 10 years ago.”
Talk to one of our trainers about how you can TRX!
For information about Personal Training at the JCC:
Squirrel Hill: Bill Herman 412-697-3238
South Hills: Elaine Cappucci 412-278-1975
IN TRAINING, CONSISTENCY IS THE KEY TO YOUR FITNESS GOALS | Hannah Peters, BS, CPT, Health Fitness Instructor
Consistency is arguably the most important component when working to accomplish goals, in or out of the gym. Without consistency, programs are unorganized, the body has a harder time adapting, and forming habits may be more challenging.
Build and Follow Workout Programming
Whatever your goals may be, they require a consistent level of training for you to reach them. One way to ensure consistency within the scope of your goals is to build a program. Programs make it much easier to stay on track because you won’t have to think about what you’re going to do at the gym today—it’s already written out. Most programs are designed to be followed for a set amount of time, typically about 4 weeks. Depending on the desired goal, the program will have a different focus—hypertrophy, endurance, strength, and so on. Each day is designed with the goal in mind, while ensuring that you are training in a way that minimizes imbalances within the body. If you aren’t following the program consistently, the chance of it working is reduced.
Theoretically, if you have a program and you don’t follow it, the body is not going to be able to adapt to the program because there isn’t an opportunity for progressive overload, which is when the amount of stress on the body is gradually increased over time, leading to increased strength and performance.
Work Toward Adaptations
Biologically, a lot of things happen in the body during exercise. Over time these reactions change the body to become stronger, grow, or run more efficiently. Different factors affect adaptations in everyone, so it’s impossible to predict when these changes will occur. But being consistent with training will increase the likelihood of seeing adaptations sooner.
Different modes of exercise elicit different adaptations. Endurance training will produce different changes than resistance training. While there are far too many adaptations to discuss in this blog, a few examples reported by the CDC include the following:
- Improved ability of muscles to use fat as energy
- Stronger ligaments and tendons
- Increased VO2 Max and lactate threshold
- Increased number of capillaries in muscles
- Cardiac muscle hypertrophy
- Increased force production
Each of these changes is beneficial for different scenarios. The body is either becoming more efficient or stronger, or performance is enhanced. However, these long-term benefits are seen only after consistent training over a period of time.
We are creatures of habit. The more we practice something, the more natural it becomes. We experience this when we learn to walk as babies, when we learn to drive, and when we exercise. It’s normal to feel out of your element when you try something new, but the more you do it, the more comfortable you feel.
Current research suggests that to make a habit stick it must be performed for 68 consecutive days. The idea of sticking with something brand new for 68 days may feel overwhelming for some people. When taking on a new challenge, focusing on taking it day by day might be a helpful mindset. Yes, we might be aiming to create a lifelong habit; however, thinking about just starting a habit to last for years could seem daunting. Start by doing it for one day, and then two, and then three, and so on.
Once you feel comfortable with one small change, add another small change, and so on. Small changes are more sustainable over the long term and add up to form new habits. There will likely be days that your plan doesn’t work out how it was supposed to, but that doesn’t mean all progress is lost.
Our bodies adapt gradually to exercise. In the end, consistency will help you reach your goals. Without it, you might not have enough structure to allow for growth. Work first on figuring out your goals, determine the best route to achieve them, and get started with one step. If you’re not sure how to get started, the personal training staff can help you set goals and develop programs tailored to those goals.
HOW NUTRITIONISTS AVOID OVEREATING AT THE HOLIDAYS | Toby Amidor, M.S., R.D., C.D.N.
The holidays are full of friends, family — and lots and lots of food. There are plenty of opportunities where you can overindulge. We asked registered dietitians around the country to provide their best tips to help keep overeating to a minimum during the holiday season.
Eat Regular Meals and Snacks Throughout the Day: Many folks think the best way to enjoy a holiday party or feast is to save up their calories for the big meal. This technique can actually backfire and lead to overeating. Sarah Schlichter, MPH, RDN of Bucket List Tummy explains, “In order to eat mindfully, we don’t want to go into a meal or eating experience feeling overly hungry. Instead, I recommend eating every three to four hours to keep blood sugar stable, starting with breakfast.” Schlichter says that, “When you’re not going into a holiday meal feeling starving, you are less likely to feel out of control throughout the eating experience, and really enjoy the food and company you’re with, which makes the holiday food experience more mindful and pleasurable.”
Use the 3-Bite Rule: “The three-bite rule is magical to relieve any guilt associated with mindful indulgences,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, founder of NutritionStarringYOU.com, and author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. “Choose to build your meal with the idea that savoring three bites of anything will allow you to partake in holiday traditions without derailing your diet and fitness goals.”
Go for a Walk Around the Table: “Before you begin to fill your plate at parties and gatherings, take a moment to scope out all of the available food options,” recommends Kara Hochreiter, MS, RDN, LD of Byte Sized Nutrition. “You may come to find that the store-bought dessert sitting at the head of the table is actually one of the least-appealing options available.” Hochreiter says that once you’ve had a chance to fully assess the situation, begin by serving yourself small sample-size portions of the dishes that interest you most and then go back for larger helpings of your favorites.
Portion Your Appetizers: Chloe Schweinshaut, RD, LDN, founder of Riverside Nutrition recommends that “if that puff pastry brie wedge or scallops wrapped in bacon are calling your name, that’s fine — just make sure that they all fit on one cocktail napkin.” With a limited amount of space, Schweinshaut says, you can still choose the foods you really want to eat without risking overindulging from the start.
Gauge Your FOMO: The fear of missing out, or FOMO, can drive you to eat more than usual or eat when you’re not hungry. “FOMO is often driven by strong social and emotional influences that can be countered by making plans to eat certain foods again,” explains Michele Redmond, MS, RDN, FAND of The Taste Workshop. Ultimately, making a plan to eat certain foods again can reduce the urgency of eating more even though you’re already full.
Be Present in the Moment: “With a million things running through your head this holiday season, it can be hard to stay in the moment,” says Alena Kharlamenko, MS, RD, CDN, of AlenaMenko.com. “If you notice your mind racing while you’re eating, or if you start to multitask, take a deep breath and commit to eating your meal mindfully. Really savor each bite and let go of distractions. It can be helpful to start practicing mindful eating with one meal a day.”
Slow Down Between Bites: Colleen Wysocki-Woods, MS, RDN owner of ZEST Nutrition says to slow down your eating by simply putting the food or utensil down between bites. “This habit not only increases your gratefulness for the food (something we may reflect on during the holidays), but it also gives your body time to know when it’s full,” explains Wysocki-Woos, who says it takes 20 minutes for the body to read those hunger hormones and recognize fullness.
Breathe: “It’s a simple act that we all take for granted, especially during the holidays,” says Sara Haas, RDN, LDN consultant culinary nutritionist and author, who recommends to take a moment to inhale and exhale deeply. “It’s a little trick that will help ground you and slow you down. Use it during meals or when you’re at your company’s holiday party!”
Sample Unique Foods: “Don’t stuff your plate with foods just because they are low in calories; instead sample those foods that are unique and special to you,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com, author of Read It Before You Eat It – Taking You from Label to Table. “Traditional holiday indulgences should be welcomed, but you may need to keep portion sizes in mind to make room for all that you choose to enjoy.”
Use the Deliciousness Scale: Ashley Koff, RD CEO of The Better Nutrition Program says to use a deliciousness scale. The deliciousness scale ranks each food from 1 to 10, with 1 being ick and 10 being the most amazing bite or sip you can recall. “Eat or drink anything that scores a 7 to 10,” recommends Koff who says that weight gain can result from foods in the 3 to 6 range. “So if something scores in that range after a bite or sip then pass, and hold out for your 7 to 10.”
50 WAYS TO SHOW GRATITUDE FOR THE PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE | Lori Deschene
“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” –William Arthur Ward
The holiday season generally brings us closer to people. Sometimes that closeness reminds us how much we love each other. Sometimes it reminds us that we drive each other crazy, as family often does.
At the heart of it, Thanksgiving in particular calls us to see people with the deepest appreciation for the gifts they’ve given us. Some gifts are more immediately obvious than others—the type that come with praise, affection, and genuine esteem.
Others push us, stretch us, test us, and make us wonder if there’s anything to be grateful for at all.
There’s no denying certain relationships are more challenging than others, but through each we have an opportunity to grow and help others do the same. Every relationship teaches us something about loving, trusting, forgiving, setting boundaries, taking care of ourselves, and taking care of each other.
From the people who love you, to the people who challenge you, to the people who support you at work, here’s how to show your gratitude:
Show Gratitude to People Who Love You
- 1. Share a specific example of something they did for you and how it made a difference in your life.
- Do something little but thoughtful for them—like clean up after Thanksgiving dinner!
- Give a long, intimate hug; or if you know they don’t like hugs, stick out your hand for a handshake to cater to their preferences and make them smile.
- Tell them you’re there if they have anything they want to talk about—and let them know they have your full attention.
- Give them something of yours that you think they would enjoy, and let them know specifically why you want them to have it.
- Invite them to do something you know they’ve always wanted to do.
- Encourage them to try something you know they want to try, but haven’t yet because they’re scared.
- Offer to do something you know they don’t enjoy doing, like organizing their closet or mowing their lawn.
- Compliment them on a talent, skill, or strength that you admire.
- Look them straight in the eyes and say, “You make the world a better place.”
Show Gratitude to People Who Challenge You
- Fully listen to what they have to say instead of forming your rebuttal in your head and waiting to speak.
- Thank them for introducing you to a new way to look at things, even if you still don’t agree.
- Pinpoint something you admire about their commitment to their beliefs—even if you don’t hold them, as well.
- Resist the urge to tell them they’re wrong.
- Challenge them right back to be the best they can be, with love and positive intentions.
- If they inspired you to push outside your comfort zone, thank them for inspiring you to take a risk, and let them know how it paid off.
- Write a blog post about how they helped you see things differently and dedicate it to them.
- Use the lesson this person teaches you through your interactions, whether it’s patience, compassion, or courage.
- Introduce them to someone who may challenge them and help them grow, as they’ve done for you.
- Let them know how you appreciate when they challenge you in a loving, non-confrontational way—and if they don’t do that, be calm and kind when you ask them to do that going forward.
Show Gratitude to People Who Serve You
- Give a larger tip than usual.
- If they have a tip jar, include a thoughtful note of appreciation along with your coins or bills.
- Smile when you order or enlist their assistance. Smiles are contagious, so give one away!
- If they serve you regularly, acknowledge something they always do well—like work efficiently or stay calm under pressure.
- Exhibit patience, even if you’re in a hurry.
- Let their superior know they do an outstanding job.
- Keep their workplace clean—for example, at a coffee shop, clean up after yourself at the sugar stand.
- Offer to get a coffee for them, if it’s someone working in or outside your home.
- If you have their contact information, send an email of appreciation—and let them know you just wanted to express your gratitude, so they don’t need to write back.
- Praise them in a review on Yelp and/or recommend them to people you know.
Show Gratitude to People Who Work with You
- Write a hand-written thank you note, acknowledging things you value about them and their work.
- Offer to lighten their workload in some way if you are able.
- Bring back lunch for them if you know they’re working hard and likely haven’t had a chance to grab something.
- If you’re running a meeting, keep it short to show them you appreciate and respect their time.
- Ask them about their lives instead of always being all business. This doesn’t mean you need to pry into personal matters; it just means showing an interest in who they are as people.
- Be the calm, light voice in a stressful situation.
- Give them flowers to brighten their desk.
- Let their boss know how they’re doing a great job and contributing to the company.
- Listen fully if they’re having a difficult day, and recognize if they need space to figure things out on their own, not advice or help.
- Remember the little things can make a big difference!
Show Gratitude for Yourself
- Make a list of ways you’ve impressed yourself lately.
- Treat yourself to something you enjoy, like a pedicure or a massage.
- If someone compliments you, thank them and let them know you’re proud of that skill, talent, or accomplishment.
- Compliment yourself—say it while looking in the mirror, write it in a journal, or jot it on a sticky note and put it on your refrigerator.
- Give yourself time to enjoy a passion you’re sometimes too busy to fit in.
- Take an inventory of all the good things you’ve done for other people and the world.
- Write yourself a love letter. Seriously, start with “Dear Lori” (but insert your own name) and describe all the things you admire about yourself.
- Let go of any conditions you have for being kind to yourself—meaning you appreciate even if you didn’t accomplish or do anything specific.
- Schedule a date with yourself—an afternoon or evening that’s all about you.
- Share the beauty that is you with the people around you, knowing they’re fortunate to have you in their lives.
I am fortunate to have you in mine. You make the world a better place!
DRESSING FOR OUTDOOR EXERCISE | @runlikeagirlBC
Understanding the layers you use will keep you warm, dry and comfortable for all your outdoor adventures. Do your research and choose the weight best suited for the time of year and the activity you are doing.
- Smarwool’s 150 weight is great for summer/spring and fall while the 250 weight is great for winter.
- Never wear cotton socks/base layers. Cotton is a bad choice for winter weather because it has little insulation, it will absorb and hold moisture rather than wick it.
A base layer is the layer closest to your skin. Always wear a moisture wicking, quick drying base layer. The purpose of this layer is to provide warmth while absorbing and evaporating your sweat to keep you feeling warm and comfortable.
THERMAL MID LAYER
A thermal mid layer helps you retain the heat that’s radiated by your body. The more efficiently this layer traps that heat, the warmer you’ll be.
OUTER LAYER (or shell layer)
An outer layer is to protect you from wind, rain and snow. Most allow at least some perspiration to escape; virtually all are treated with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish to make water bead up and roll off the fabric. Your outer shell is an important piece in stormy weather, because if wind and water are allowed to penetrate to inner layers making you chilled and cold. Choosing the right shell for the activity your doing is important and can be lumped into the following categories:
- Waterproof/breathable shells: Your most functional (and expensive) choice, this type of shell is your best option for full-on conditions. Generally, pricier equals drier, though higher priced shells are often more durable as well.
- Water-resistant/breathable shells: These are more suited to drizzly, breezy conditions and high activity levels. More affordable than waterproof/breathable shells, they’re typically made of tightly woven nylon or polyester fabrics that block light wind and light rain.
Smartwool hats/ear bands, socks, mitts, buffs, sports bra and underwear are all great choices and my go-to for the essentials.
Always plan ahead – Pack the 10 essentials.
This will ensure a safe, fun outdoor experience.
Victoria Whitney Brown | FOR FLAVOR & HEALTH, SEASONAL EATING IS THE BEST!
The weather is finally turning towards fall, and there is a lot to look forward to. From pumpkin patches to apple orchards and haunted houses to hayrides and everything in between, the season is packed with delight. Autumn is also a season of harvest, and there is plenty of bounty to enjoy. The next time you’re heading to the grocery store, you may want to try shopping seasonally to enjoy the best this time of year has to offer.
Beyond the amazing flavors, there are a lot of reasons to shop seasonally. Many grocery stores are able to keep their shelves stocked with a variety of fruits and vegetables regardless of the time of year. While this is great when you’re craving apples in May, you may not be able to pick from the cream of the crop. Shopping for produce that is at the peak of its season gives you access to the freshest options, which means more flavor on your plate. Shopping in season can also help introduce you to local vendors and reduce your carbon footprint. Produce that is in season is also chock full of nutrients. You can tell by the bright colors! Best of all, produce that is in season is often cheaper than options that are out of season.
Now that you’re on board with checking out the seasonal selection for autumn, you may be wondering what fruits and vegetables to sample. Fall wouldn’t be complete without fresh apples. You can sample some classic varieties such as Gala, McIntosh, or Honeycrisp or keep an eye out for new varieties like Cosmic Crisp and Redpop. Apples pack a Vitamin C punch to boost your immune system as the weather gets colder. If fresh apples are too difficult to chew, try your hand at some homemade applesauce. If you don’t want to lose the shape, try sautéing your apples in a bit of oil and cinnamon to top your next bowl of oatmeal or yogurt. If apples aren’t your speed try some fresh pears as we head into the colder months. We also can’t forget about carrot’s paler cousin, the parsnip. Parsnips are prime choices for the fall season and make a great addition to any roasted vegetable dish. Pair with fresh rosemary or thyme to enhance the natural earthy flavors.
Fall wouldn’t be complete without the first crops of winter squash. Much like their summer counterparts, winter squash is a great source of vitamins, like Vitamin A, and fiber. Varieties such as acorn, kabocha, and butternut squash highlight to crop of the season. One of the important, and tasty, differences is that winter squash is heartier and more fibrous so it holds up better to heat. They are perfect for a roasted vegetable side dish or as a container for your main. At breakfast, try slicing your winter squash into rings to fry an egg. You can turn your squash into boats to fill with rice, ground meat, and/or cheese and roast in the oven to finish off. To prep your winter squash, slice down the middle to create two halves. Scrape out the seeds and drizzle with olive oil and herbs. Flip the halves upside down so the inside is face down on a prepared baking tray. Roast the squash until the insides are soft and the skin starts to peel away. You can keep the skin on if you prefer or peel it off once the squash cools. They’re ready for you to use in your recipe!
The last fall staple on our list is another classic. While it makes an amazing decoration for your porch, pumpkin can also liven up your fall dishes. Try adding canned pumpkin to your next chili or stew to add some brightness. Just decrease the liquid content by ¼-½ cup for every cup of pumpkin added. You can also try your hand at roasted pumpkin. Look for sugar or pie pumpkins in the produce section of your grocery store (the pumpkins out front are usually for decorating) and follow the directions for preparing winter squash from above.
While we may be missing those warmer months soon, there is plenty to enjoy this fall. Check out your produce aisle on your next trip and pick up some of the season’s best to fuel your favorite fall activities. If you’re looking for inspiration, try these recipes!
Maddie Barnes | “HEALTHY” FOOD IS ONLY HEALTHY IF YOU EAT IT
Most of us start the New Year with the intention of eating “healthier.” But what does that mean? Who decides what constitutes a healthy meal? With so much information out there these days, it can be overwhelming and downright confusing. Even as a Certified Health Education Specialist and former community nutrition educator, I sometimes feel lost when trying to make healthier food choices at grocery store or out a restaurant. That is one reason why I was so excited to have Judy Dodd, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND, start a series on the Virtual Senior Academy.
Judy Dodd is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, who recently retired from the University of Pittsburgh. She is generously volunteering her time to lead a series on the VSA titled “Making Sense of Food and Nutrition?” The aim of this series is to help students better understand nutrition trends and fads, and decipher what is truly “healthy.”
One of my biggest take-aways from her first class was “healthy food is only healthy if you eat it.” It is a waste of money to buy foods or products you won’t actually eat, because you hate the taste, or don’t have the time or resources to prepare. This should not deter you from trying new things, however, we should just be more mindful consumers. So, for instance, if you are like me and know you hate raw kale, do not buy it for salads! There are plenty of other green veggies out there, and many simple ways to prepare them.
Eating can be social, cultural, and joyful experience, when you make the time for it. Do not force yourself to eat something that tastes terrible to you, just because it is a healthy, popular food of the moment.
If you want to learn more from a nutrition expert, sign up for Judy’s class and check out all of the Virtual Senior Academy’s class offerings HERE
The Virtual Senior Academy was created for adults 55+ in the greater Pittsburgh area, but we welcome all adults from all over!
Elaine Cappucci | WE KNOW WEARING MASKS WHILE EXERCISING IS CHALLENGING, BUT IT’S WORTH IT!
As fall gets into full swing and it gets cold and rainy outside, we’re all strategizing about how to keep up our fitness routines. At the JCC, where your health and safety are a top priority, we are continuing to require face masks for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals while in the building.
In the South Hills we have been doing all classes indoors for a while, and in Squirrel Hill more classes will be moving inside throughout the fall. Yes, we know that wearing a mask while exercising can be a bit uncomfortable, but there’s no question that this minor inconvenience will be far overshadowed by the great benefits, both physical and mental, of keeping fit.
Here are a few things to note:
- It is safe to wear a mask while exercising.
- Current research shows that your heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, oxygen level and time of exhaustion are not significantly affected by wearing a mask.
- It is better to be exercising with a mask than not exercising! You can reduce your intensity to keep your respiration rate down.
- If you have chronic heart, lung, or respiratory issues, you should talk with your health care provider about exercising with a mask.
- Try out a few different masks to see which is most comfortable for you. Cloth or moisture wicking masks may stay drier than a paper mask. A metal ridge at your nose helps the mask stay put. Consider a cone mask that fits well to your face but leaves a little room between your nose and the mask.
- Take water breaks as needed.
- Our classes are socially distanced, with a minimum of 6’ of separation between members.
- In class we monitor perceived exertion and advise members to work within a comfortable range.
- Your body will become accustomed to the amount of air you take in with a mask, and when the time comes to take the mask off, you will see the physical improvement that comes with that!
It is a minor inconvenience for a multitude of health benefits. So as the thermometer drops, don’t return to the couch; come on inside and take a class, train and work out at the JCC!
Check out all of the JCC’s Fitness offerings HERE
EXCITING NEWS: We’re offering more classes in our beautiful studios in Squirrel Hill and South Hills.
Check out all of the JCC’s Fitness offerings HERE
Elaine Cappucci | DON’T LET CHRONIC DISEASE STOP YOU FROM EXERCISING
Everyone has days they just don’t feel like getting outside or getting to the gym. But we all know if we just do it, we will feel better. Add in a chronic condition – like arthritis or Parkinson’s disease – that makes moving more difficult, and the temptation to stay home gets even greater even though the benefits of getting in some exercise and socialization are also greater for this population.
Once you have overcome your brain telling you to stay on the couch and are up and ready to move, what should you do? Outdoor activities like walking, riding a bike, swimming, and gardening are generally safe, especially if you build up slowly. But you can also add in an exercise class, especially one that is proven to have significant positive results of alleviating or staving off symptoms of your particular condition and is led by an instructor who has been specifically trained to teach the class.
Anyone who has arthritis can tell you the benefits of exercising in the pool, where the water helps to support you and eases pressure on your joints. The Arthritis Foundation Aquatics Program (AFAP) is designed for adults with arthritis, but anyone with join pain and stiffness may benefit. AFAP has been found to improve physical function and quality of life for those with arthritis.
For those with Parkinson’s, and for anyone who wants to improve their strength, posture, balance and movement, the PWR!Moves class targets skills known to deteriorate in people with Parkinson disease, which often lead to loss of mobility and function. The exercises taught in this class can be integrated into your daily activities and routines and improve your ability to carry out your activities of daily living.
While not geared toward one specific condition, the gentle flowing motions practiced in Tai Chi have also been proven to help reduce stress, improve flexibility, mobility, and balance, and alleviate painful symptoms of some chronic diseases like arthritis.
It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise program. Once you do, check out our classes. Every fitness article you read will tell you that having an exercise buddy will help you stick to your plan. Come to one of our classes and you will have a whole class full of friends who can share thoughts and experiences similar to yours.
Check out all of the JCC’s Fitness offerings HERE
Jen Goldston | ALLOW YOURSELF SOME GRACE
You’ve heard these fitness tips before. From magazines, or online blogs, your friends, or your trainer… and they are good tips, rooted in solid advice. Tips like:
- Strive for at least 150 minutes of exercise per week.
- Cut your coffee calories.
- Keep a fitness journal.
- Pay attention to your thoughts.
- Eat the rainbow.
- Avoid processed foods.
- Make sure you drink water.
- Get 8 hours of sleep
Sometimes though, you don’t need practical advice on how to lose weight or build muscle, what you need is some soul baring, uplifting, keep-going counseling. And sometimes you just need to know that you are not alone in the chaos of life. Not alone in the ever-present juggling act of care taking for others, self-care, errands, and work. When you are in the trenches of day to day living, so often we must decide which balls we are juggling are glass, and therefore cannot be dropped, and which balls are plastic, and can handle momentary neglect.
The prolific writer G.K Chesterton said, “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing poorly.” This doesn’t mean that we should give 25% effort when we can give 100% but it does mean that 25% effort is better than 0%. Doing your best does not mean 100% effort 100% of the time, it means giving that day what you have. So here are a few tips for Days When Things Are Worth Doing Poorly.
-Strive for movement that feels doable. It doesn’t have to be joyful; it doesn’t have to be the-best-sweat-you-ever-had, it just has to be something.
-Drink your coffee. Even if you must reheat it. Even if you must reheat it twice. But also drink some water because hydration feels good.
-Keep a fitness journal if you want or draw a smiley face in the shower steam. Acknowledge your blank journal day as much as your chatty days. Often, we say more with quiet than with noise.
-Pay attention to your thoughts or give yourself a break from contemplation and watch some mindless TV.
-Eat the rainbow. And then a piece of cake. Or be double daring and eat the cake first. Acknowledge that emotional eating is not synonymous with Bad Eating.
-Don’t beat yourself up if what you ate today came from a box instead of the farmers market. You fed yourself, or your family, or both. You’re doing a good job.
-Make sure you drink your water, but you aren’t a failure if you didn’t hit your daily goal, or even if some of that water came from an Adult Beverage after a long day.
-Get the sleep you can. Some days you’re going to toss and turn, some days you’re going to sleep through an alarm. Some days you’ll fall right asleep. Give yourself a break. Get the sleep you can on the days when life is tough, and on other days, get the sleep you need.
Allowing yourself some grace on the 25% days is going to give you some perspective for the 100% days, and the 90% days, and the 73% days. Just remember, you are doing a good job! Be proud of yourself and don’t give up!
SUCCESSFUL YOM KIPPUR FASTING | Myra Berkowitz, MNS, RD
Some say a fast shouldn’t be easy. But, neither should fasting be so difficult that one can’t concentrate on prayer.
The following suggestions may help your fast day go more smoothly.
Before the fast:
- Get well hydrated. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids during the day or two preceding Yom Kippur to minimize dehydration.
- Eat reasonably well. Don’t overeat, but do be sure to eat normal meals and get sufficient protein and carbohydrate foods the day before.
- Decrease salty and spicy foods, which would only increase your thirst later while fasting. Obviously salty foods include salted pretzels, crackers, and chips; pickles, olives, and other salty condiments; regular canned foods; and prepared soups and stews. (It’s hard to entirely avoid salt unless you cook from scratch, but you may be able to decrease it enough to be helpful.)
- Decrease caffeine from coffee, tea, soda, and other sources during the week preceding Yom Kippur. Otherwise, caffeine “withdrawal” can produce a headache that will make fasting more difficult. (Some religious authorities allow use of caffeine in pill form, but this may be less desirable solution.)
During the fast:
- Bring light layers of clothing to help you adjust to the ambient temperature and not feel too warm or too cold.
- Walk around and get fresh air as possible, but avoid any strenuous activity. You may actually feel better if you move around rather than lie down.
- Sniffing spices is allowed on Yom Kippur and can be restorative!
After the fast:
- Break your fast by first drinking fluids, which will be absorbed quickly on an empty stomach and rehydrate you.
- Progress to regular foods, but try not to eat too rapidly.
- Remember what you did that helped you through the fast, in order to recall those strategies next time!
If you cannot fast:
- Medical conditions and medications prevent some people from fasting safely. Please discuss any concerns or questions with your medical provider and/or rabbi.
- A meditation for one who cannot fast, by Rabbi S.Y. Weintraub, can be found at the Ritualwell website.
Myra Berkowitz is a Registered Dietitian and nutritionist at Cornell Health who observes the Yom Kippur fast.
FACING PROBLEMS HEAD ON | Jen Goldston
This summer, a pipe burst in my kid’s 2nd floor bathroom, flooding my kitchen. The plumber turned the water off to that bathroom while they fixed the leak. Once the leak was fixed, the restoration team turned their attention to the kitchen ceiling and then the kitchen floor. They forgot to turn the cold water back on but promised to do it that week. Then the garbage disposal started leaking in the kitchen, and no one wanted to risk any more floods, so we left the water off. Some of the house has water, and some of it doesn’t. The cold water in the kid’s bathroom doesn’t work in the sink, but the hot water does. The kitchen sink works, and a bucket in the cabinet underneath means that so long as you empty it once a day, the leak in the disposal is no big deal. It will get fixed once the floor is done. In the meantime, you wash your hands quickly in the kid’s bathroom, so you don’t get burned. You don’t run the disposal in the kitchen. You learn to live around the broken things, the inconveniences.
And inconveniences become obstacles. They slow down the process. They mutate into bigger and bigger things until they feel insurmountable. The cold water being turned off means that handwashing is less efficient, it means kids are running downstairs to wash their hands in different bathrooms or (ew) not washing their hands at all.
When a problem pops up, the best thing to do is to face it head on and face it immediately. Work schedule change? Don’t give yourself a month to figure out your new routine before you return to the gym. Feeling uninspired? Push through the sludge-feeling and rely on discipline instead of motivation. Don’t allow a bad day to become a bad week, month or longer.
If it feels hard, write out what feels un-doable, break down the problem into smaller chunks, call in a life line or a workout buddy, accountability partner, or sign up for a Group Exercise class. Often, having someone who will miss you, or a class that you’ve committed to, will be the push you need to Get It Done.
As for me? I called the plumber while I was writing this Healthy and Fit tip, and he’ll be there tomorrow. Problem solved. Clean hands for all.
BENEFITS OF SPINNING | Marsha Mullen
Spinning® may conjure “fun” to some and “sweat” to others. Yet no one can deny the extensive list of health and fitness benefits of Spinning® – including though not limited to physical, mental and even social boons. From slimming down the physique, you see in the mirror to the invigorating experience of a Spinning® class with like-minded fitness enthusiasts…the list of benefits is extensive.
We’re sharing the top benefits of Spinning® here and now, so you know what to expect if you’re a newbie or so you can reflect on all you gain from Spinning® if you’re already a pro on the bike. Enjoy!
1. Turn that Caloric Burn up a Notch
Hands down, Spinning® offers one of the highest caloric burn returns of any workout you can do. In the study Heart Rate Response and Calories Burned in a Spinning® Workout, subjects burned between 7.2 to 13.6 calories per minute. Total calories burned during a 40-minute Spinning® workout ranged from 467 to 617 calories. Consider that in the context of another popular activity, Hatha Yoga, which burns 240 to 356 calories per hour. Plus, thanks to the science of EPOC the “afterburn effect” means that you’ll continue to burn more calories even after your ride!
Expert Tip: Pair your ride with a heart rate monitor for an estimate of the number of calories you burn during a ride. Better yet, since a power meter measures the wattage generated, it tells you the accurate amount of energy (calories) expended as expressed in kJs (kilojoules).
2. Strengthen Your Heart
Through aerobic and anaerobic training of Spinning® workouts, you will improve your heart’s stroke volume. This is the volume of blood pumped out of the heart’s left ventricle to the rest of the body with each heartbeat. So, an increased stroke volume means that your heart pumps out more blood with each stroke. In fact, your left ventricle can actually grow in size due to increased stroke volume! What does this mean? You want to protect your heart?! Hop on a Spinner® bike!
3. Be Kind to Your Joints and Go Easy on Your Knees
Spinning® puts far less pressure on your knees and your feet than other traditional cardio alternatives. With the ability to work hard on a Spinner® bike without impact, you can focus on results without discomfort. In fact, indoor cycling low-impact workouts accommodate ailments, are easy on injuries, support joint and tendon health, and are excellent for the longevity of your fitness regime.
In this study – The Effects of Group Cycling (Spinning®) With Knee Osteoarthritis – indoor cycling (Spinning® specifically!) was shown to improve gait, pain levels and physical functioning for those suffering from osteoarthritis . What does this imply? Spinning® can actually be good for your knees! THIS STUDY WAS DONE HERE AT THE JCC OF GREATER PITTSBURGH!
4. Get Ready for Race Day
Spinning® relies upon the same techniques as outdoor cycling. In fact, the Spinner® bike has the same geometry as an outdoor bike and was born from the road. It unites innovation in indoor stationary bike technology with an unprecedented cycling experience on the road. This means you can train realistically for your race on a Spinner® bike. You can even wear the same shoes and clip in just like you would outdoors. Though there is one major benefit to Spinning® versus road riding – no helmet required!
5. Enhance Your Mental Strength
Spinning® can also help you develop a “can-do” attitude. Spinning® builds mental strength because as you’ll find the more you ride, there are easier days and then there are harder days on the bike. The important detail to remember is that you can ride through it all. Push through difficult hill climbs and coast through the flats. Both are a part of your time on the bike. This mental self-discipline increases with each pedal stroke and can be applied to other areas of your life involving self-control or confidence. As we like to say – you got this!
6. Set Your Own Pace
In every Spinning® class, whether in-person at a studio or via Spinning® Digital, everyone rides together regardless of age, size, ability or experience. You’re in command of your intensity each moment of your ride because you control both cadence and resistance on the bike. A beginner can climb a steep hill alongside a professional cyclist, and they will reach the summit together – each one finding the amount of challenge and effort that’s right for them. It’s all about your own personal ride.
7. Join the Spinning® Community That Trains Like a Team
Regardless of fitness level, Spinning® unifies people through a training program that changes lives. Just look to the unified enjoyment you can see on the faces of class full of people striving to achieve their best. That type of collective enjoyment in pursuit of a common goal is truly authentic and inspirational to Spinning®. You don’t just sit in class unaffected by your neighbor – you and your neighbor motivate each other. In those moments, you become more than a group of riders – you become a team.
Riding together also gives you the opportunity to encourage others. You can inspire those who have not yet reached your fitness level; while those stronger than you, inspire you. Working together, everyone who rides can reach his or her own goals and share in the benefits of Spinning® together.
So, take the challenge and sign up today for a class – you too can feel the benefits!!!
FIND SAFETY IN THE STORM | Jen Goldston, August 13, 2021
Thursday night I experienced something new.
Pittsburgh had storms sweep through in their normal Summer way, swift and tempestuous. They came raging during Group Centergy, our pilates yoga fusion class held in the Kaufmann Garage. I was not a participant that night, so when the wind began to pick up, the fat raindrops becoming a single never-ending sheet of rain; I stood off to the side of the class and watched. It gave me a unique perspective, to be a part of, and still aside from what was going on.
The same way I love Group Exercise, I also love words, and I could not stop thinking about Centergy’s tag line… “Center your Energy”, is there anything more poignant than Centering yourself inside of a literal storm?
I watched the participants adjust themselves out of the way of newly formed small streams, how they dug in deeper to concentrate despite the sonorous thunder. How Evan lead his class with gratitude to them for being there, humor and grace.
Life is not going to be calm all the time, ideal conditions are the exception and not the rule. Learning to grow in what might be less comfortable than you hoped for is a beautiful (and yes, probably messy) experience. But there can be safety in the storm, growth and change.
RETURNING TO THE GYM | Jen Goldston
You’re coming back to the gym, maybe after months of disuse. Maybe, like me, you ate raw cookie dough hunched over like Gollum and refused to come out of your darkened cocoon of a room. Maybe you’ve been working out hard, but your home weights and your backyard just aren’t fulfilling your need for socialization. Whatever your reason, you’re back.
Before you deep dive into your pre-pandemic fitness routine, take time to acknowledge that you may not currently be where you were 18 months ago. Ease into your new routine, be smart about how much you’re working out, hydrating, eating and follow these tips to ensure a healthy return to, well…health.
- Runners can start with a walk-to-run program. As you feel more comfortable walking for a longer time or distance, take minutes away from the walk and add it to the run.
- Weightlifters should start out with lighter weights. As you increase the weight, you can decrease the number of repetitions. Your progress can be marked by how comfortably you’re able to increase the weight or number of repetitions.
- To avoid overuse and stress, alternate activities during your workout that engage different parts of the body.
- During Group Exercise classes, pay attention to your heart rate and how you feel. Instructors will offer a variety of modifications to best suit your current needs.
Don’t be hard on yourself if your reps are less or your weights are lower. It took you time to get to produce your best efforts the first time around, and it will take a bit this time too, but good news! Rebuilding old muscle is a lot faster than gaining it in the first place, thanks to a phenomenon known as muscle memory. Research shows that when a muscle is gained, lost, and then gained back again, it will grow more quickly during the re-building phase compared to the initial training period from an untrained state. So give yourself a bit of grace, dig in with a bit of grit, and remember, showing up is more than half the battle!
Congratulations on choosing yourself, again and again and again.
Jen Goldston, Concierge and Member Relations at the JCC in Squirrel Hill, is a frequent writing contributor about the fitness experience
14 WAYS TO ENCOURAGE KIDS TO PLAY OUTDOORS | Leave No Child Inside Collaborative of Greater Cincinnati
We believe that all parents want what is best for their children. We also know that our world is changing more quickly than ever before, and sometimes we are swept into new lifestyles before we realize it. Who would have imagined 30 years ago that we would need to encourage parents to send their children outside to play? But, with children spending between 40 and 60 hours per week attached to electronic umbilici, and the balance of their time scheduled between school, sports and other extracurricular activities, educators, doctors and early childcare experts are beginning to see a myriad of negative effects ranging from reduced cognitive development as a result of overly structured activities that do not stimulate problem solving and creativity, to childhood obesity , reduced muscle development and balance and other physical ailments.
The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights recognizes play as a right of every child and the American Academy of Pediatrics states that “Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being of children and youth”. The AAP goes on to say that “even those children who are fortunate enough to have abundant available resources and who live in relative peace may not be receiving the full benefits of play. Many of these children are being raised in an increasingly hurried and pressured style that may limit the protective benefits they would gain from child-driven play”.
We hope that your family will take a step back from the hurried lifestyle to which we have become accustomed, and recognize the need for all of us, but especially our children, to have free time for play! Here are a few ideas to get your kids started. Once they’re outside, we predict that they’ll have plenty of their own ideas.
Tips for Parents and Mentors to Encourage Outdoor Play
- If you live in a house, create a child – friendly backyard.
- Give children a place on the porch, deck or in the bedroom where they can display nature treasures that they find and want to keep.
- Provide simple tools to aid discovery. Kids love tools! Include a bug box, trowel, magnifier, etc.
- When you take children to parks and other natural areas, allow them to explore. Let them decide which trails to take. Stay nearby for safety, but don’t interfere or help unless asked.
- Encourage plenty of time outside. Consider taking a walk to the library, store or post office instead of driving.
- If a child asks or remarks about a landmark or natural feature you drive past often, find out more about it and go for a visit.
- Take advantage of the natural resources available in your area. Take children canoeing, kayaking or fishing.
- Take a few leaves from different trees while the children are not looking. Give them the leaves and ask them to find which trees they came from.
- Provide a tree identification book to help kids learn about the trees in their own neighborhood.
- In the fall, leave the fallen leaves down for a while so kids can run around and shuffle through them.
- Rake up a big leaf pile and let them demolish it. If they’re not preschoolers, leave the rake out so they can rebuild it if they want.
- If you have an appropriate area, let older children build a campfire in the backyard. Set safety rules, then stay away while they and their friends discuss hot topics. Check for safety by looking out the window or wandering out to ask if they need more snacks.
- Put out bird feeders that can be seen easily from windows. Let children help feed the birds. Keep a bird book by the window to help them identify what they see.
- Make up challenges for children to do outside, similar to the “Survivor” television show. This is a guaranteed kid pleaser, especially if there is a reward (a gift of time with Mom or Dad, or perhaps a night off from helping with the dishes).
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Convention on the Rights of the Child. General Assembly Resolution 44/25 of 20 November 1989. Available at www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/k2crc.htm.
YES, YOU NEED A MASSAGE! | massagetherapy.com
Have you had your tires rotated recently? Been to the dentist for a cleaning? There are some appointments you don’t think twice about making—they’re just a part of life. It’s time to think of massage as routine maintenance.
“… But My Body Doesn’t Hurt”
We automatically schedule routine maintenance for our cars, but all too often, we don’t give our bodies the same consideration. Fail to get your oil changed or your tires rotated, and you can count on some major problems down the road. Similarly, when you fail to pay attention to your body and provide it with the care it deserves, you may very well run into health issues that could have been prevented.
Think of it this way: vehicle maintenance (like oil changes and tire rotations) isn’t something you do only when there’s a problem—it’s something you do to prevent problems from happening in the first place. The same holds true with your body. Just because you don’t currently have an injury or an urgent reason to receive bodywork doesn’t mean you shouldn’t schedule regular sessions to prevent those problems from happening down the line. In addition, studies have shown that the most significant, lasting benefits of massage are found with repeated sessions, not just a one-time visit.1
What types of problems can result from inattention to your body? Stress- or repetitive motion-related injuries are the first things that come to mind, but tight muscles and pain due to posture, as well as recurring migraines, are also potential problems. Conditions such as these, that start as a nuisance but accumulate into major problems over a long period of time, are much more difficult to fix after the fact than they are to prevent. And once the damage is done, it can often last for years. Don’t wait until it’s too late to give your body some TLC.
“… But I’m already Relaxed”
Simply put, massage should be an integral part of any well-rounded lifestyle that embraces health and wellness. Even if you only look at the massage hour as an opportunity to unplug from the noise and the stress of everyday life, that’s fine too. Massage has been proven to reduce stress, and reducing stress has been clearly associated with a number of significant health benefits.2
That being said, massage does not simply promote relaxation (although it does that in spades)—it improves flexibility, reduces blood pressure, improves sleep, and may even facilitate a change in one’s sense of self by encouraging body awareness and enhancing your ability to experience your body in a more positive way.3
“… But I Don’t Have the Time”
Don’t think you have time to get a massage? Committing to a healthy lifestyle that includes regular bodywork doesn’t mean you need to clear enough time for a 90-minute stone massage every week. Bodywork comes in many forms, some of which are tailored specifically for busy individuals like yourself. Chair massages are great for a quick “recharge and refresh” session—consider a 30- or even 15-minute chair massage on your lunch break.
It’s time to make time for you! If you’re relatively healthy and injury-free, congratulations—now take steps to ensure you stay that way for years to come and schedule your next sessions today.
Massage is back!
at the JCC Squirrel Hill!
Meet Jen Petrus, who is glad to be back to work and looking forward to seeing clients past and new in the Centerfit Platinum. Jen has been providing massage therapy at the JCC since graduating from the Pittsburgh School of Massage Therapy in 2014. She will customize your session to fit your goals; whether you are looking for a soothing Swedish massage for relaxation or some heavier pressure to work out knots, need pain relief for your neck and shoulders, or just want a foot massage. We all deserve to set aside time to focus on just feeling good!
To schedule an appointment, contact Evan Aiello at [email protected] or call 412-521-8010
8 EXERCISES FOR HEALTHY HIPS | Nancy Howard, with Jen Mueller, Certified Personal Trainer
The hip flexors are the group of muscles that allow you to lift your knees toward your chest and bend forward from the hips. What is collectively referred to as the hip flexors is actually a group of muscles that includes the iliopsoas, the thigh muscles (rectus femoris, Sartorius and tensor fasciae latae), and the inner thigh muscles (adductor longus and brevis, pectineus and gracilis).
Tight hip flexors are a common problem among those of us who spend a lot of the day sitting at a desk. When you spend a lot of time in a seated position, the hip flexors remain in a shortened position. Over time, the shortened muscles become “tight,” which leads to its own set of problems.
Tight hip flexors can result in lower back pain, hip pain and injury. A lot of strain is put on those muscles during activities that involve sprinting and kicking. For example, runners are more prone to hip flexor injuries because of the small, repetitive movement during running. But even if you’re not an athlete, hip flexor injuries can occur during everyday activities (for instance, slipping and falling or running to catch a bus). When those tight muscles are suddenly stretched beyond what they are accustomed to, you might also experience pain in the upper groin region, typically where the hip meets the pelvis.
Simple hip-strengthening and stretching exercises can help keep these muscles from becoming tight, therefore decreasing your risk of injury and discomfort. Try these stretches daily and incorporate a few of the strength exercises into your routine 2-3 times per week.
Hip Flexor Stretches
Seated Butterfly Stretch: A simple stretch for your inner thighs, hips and lower back.
Pigeon Pose: This yoga posture lengthens the hip flexors on the back leg.
Weighted Hip Extension: This exercise lengthens the hip flexors while simultaneously strengthening the glutes, which are often weak in people with tight hip flexors.
Bridges: A great way to give the hip flexors a chance to lengthen while also strengthening the posterior chain of the body.
Hip Flexor Strengthening Exercises
Note: Exercises that strengthen the hip flexors also involve contracting (shortening) these muscles. So if tight hip flexors are a problem for you, it might be wise to limit how many direct hip-strengthening exercises you perform. These exercises are more geared toward people who have been told they have weak hip flexors that need strengthening or are looking for targeted exercises to build more power and stamina in the hip flexors.
Balancing Hip Flexion: Use your core to help with balance during this exercise that strengthens the hips and glutes.
Runner’s Lunges: A great addition to any workout routine, this lower body strength move targets multiple muscles at once.
Skater Squats: A strength exercise for the hip flexors that can be done anytime, anywhere. Use a chair for balance and eliminate the squat for simplicity, if needed.
Pendulum: A more advanced exercise to strengthen the core and hips. Start with smaller movement and increase your range of motion as you become stronger.
In addition to these exercises, there are simple things you can do every day to help reduce your risk of hip flexor pain. If you sit at a desk for long periods of time, try to get up and move around every hour or so. Warm up properly before any physical activity, and stretch regularly at the end of each workout. Your hips will thank you for it!
If you need help with improve your hip flexibility and mobility check out our Yoga Stretch class with Marsha on Sundays at 10 am on Virtual JCCPGH
6 SURPRISING BENEFITS OF ZUMBA | Cassie Shortsleeve
Yes, it burns calories, improves heart health, and reduces stress. But this exercise offers everyone even more.
Zumba has been called exercise in disguise—and for good reason. During a class, you’ll dance to the beat of Latin-inspired tunes while sneaking in both low- and high-intensity moves.“Zumba classes are energizing, community-building, and designed to provide much of what we love in SilverSneakers classes,” says Terecita “Ti” Blair, the 2017 SilverSneakers Instructor of the Year. “These include cardiovascular, balance, and coordination benefits, and most importantly, fun.”In fact, a study by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) analyzed the benefits of Zumba Gold, a lower-intensity class. It found that a single session meets the exercise-intensity guidelines for improving and maintaining cardio fitness in older adults, says Sabrena Jo, a senior exercise scientist with ACE.
Heart benefits aside, there are plenty of other reasons to love Zumba. Here are six more reasons to give it a try.
1. It’s Easy on the Joints
As you get older, bone density and joint support naturally start to wane, which means high-impact exercises like running may not be doable. Zumba is an excellent low-impact workout, Blair says. It protects your joints and muscles while raising your heart rate and improving your balance, posture, and coordination.
Zumba Gold in particular allows you to go at your own speed and provides low-impact routines that are easy to follow.
2. It’s a Moving Meditation
Meditation is popular among health-conscious individuals for many reasons, but one of the biggest benefits is that it gives your mind a chance to rest. It clears the chatter and teaches you to be present in the here and now. Zumba is similar to meditation in that way.
Focusing on your body as it moves through rhythmic exercises helps keep you grounded in the present. It teaches you mindfulness without having to meditate. “There’s no better way to practice living in the moment than by giving yourself an opportunity to simply go with the flow,” Blair says.
3. It’s a Chance to Let Go and Laugh
Zumba truly gives you a chance to “dance like no one’s watching,” Blair says. “You don’t have to know how to dance to take a Zumba class. You just have to be willing to try.”
It helps to remember that messing up is simply part of learning—it means you’re being challenged. Be willing to laugh at yourself. “Laughter is a key ingredient of a Zumba class and of a happy, playful life,” Blair says.
Need more convincing? A study in The Gerontologist found that when laughter was incorporated into a workout, it boosted older adults’ mental health, aerobic endurance, and confidence regarding exercise.
4. It Keeps Your Brain Sharp
Unlike many forms of exercise, Zumba offers an endless variety of movements. You start with the basics and then gradually layer on new techniques. This fancy footwork keeps your brain active and focused, Blair says. “Shifting your weight and rhythmic steps challenge hand-eye coordination and right-left brain activity.”
And the benefits don’t stop once you learn the moves. “Familiar Zumba dance moves can help increase our neuromuscular memory so we feel successful,” Blair says.
5. You’ll Never Stop Improving—In and Out of Class
Mastering each new Zumba movement is a small win. Your success might inspire you to challenge yourself again, moving toward more advanced moves, Blair says.
Plus, that motivation to face new challenges often translates into real life. “On the Zumba floor, we practice patience with ourselves and others, and we gain confidence to learn new tasks,” Blair says. “These are qualities that can be useful in all of our daily interactions.”
6. It Helps You Stick to an Exercise Routine
In the ACE study, researchers noted a common post-workout sentiment among Zumba participants: They truly enjoyed the experience. Eventually, Blair says, an “I can’t dance” declaration becomes a “That was fun!” exclamation—which then turns into “Let’s do it again!”
That’s the goal. “With the power of dance and Zumba,” Blair says, “you are instilling self-confidence, empowerment, and healthy risk-taking all while adding fun back to movement.”
Patti Sciulli | CAN YOU TRULY EAT ANYTHING AS LONG AS YOU DON’T OVERDO IT?
You’ve heard it before (definitely from me) . Go ahead and enjoy your favorite foods- just do so in moderation. It’s a phrase meant to help prevent feelings of deprivation when you’re trying to maintain a healthy diet… (you are ,right?). While in theory it’s sound advice, in reality it’s meaningless. That’s because it’s too ambiguous to be helpful and can be problematic for those trying to maintain or lose weight. One person might define “moderate” as a small slice of cake or pie once or twice a week, while another person, who also loves dessert, might be convinced that it means a sweet treat twice a day! Researchers have found that the more a person liked a certain food, the more forgiving he or she was with the word “moderation”. For example, the twice-a-day person’s sweet habit is moderate in his mind because he’d actually like to eat treats 3-4 times a day.
Keep tabs on yourself! To figure out what moderation means in your day-to-day eating, here’s a little help. I follow a 80/20 approach, which means I make 80% of my food choices healthy and leave 20% wiggle room for my favorite indulgences. It’s bagels in case you just met me! If you’re counting calories, try to limit your treat foods to 150-200 total calories. And don’t forget to enjoy every bite!
“Maybe she’s crazy…Maybe she needs carbs! YOU DON”T KNOW!”
Elaine Cappucci | RETURNING TO GROUP EXERCISE CLASSES
Returning to Group Exercise classes after a long break? Whether you took a break from group classes or did online classes at home, when you return to the gym you may feel like classes are harder than they used to be, or you may feel like you’ve been cooped up and you’re ready to “go for it.” In either case, rushing the return, going too hard or too fast can lead to injury. It’s likely you lost some muscle strength and cardiovascular endurance over the past year, so give yourself time to build back up. You need to listen to your body!
This might be a good time to change up your fitness routine, get some variety, and add some gentle stretching or mind/body classes:
- If you are returning to a strength training class like Group Power, don’t start with the weight you were doing before. Go light, learn the routine, and add weight as needed.
- If you are returning to a cardio-intense class like Group Blast, try Group Active instead, or think about using a lower step for the first few classes.
- If you used to do SilverSneakers Circuit class, start off with the seated/standing SilverSneaker Classic until you have the strength, stamina and balance to do the standing circuit class.
- You can build muscle strength and practice mindfulness in Group Centergy or in Yoga or Tai Chi class.
We hate to admit it to ourselves, but, while it is easy to get in the habit of not exercising, and no matter how anxious we are to get back to the gym, it is hard to restart the habit of regular workouts. Don’t fall into the trap of quitting because you are not where you used to be or you can’t do what someone next to you can do. Set yourself up for success by starting with classes you most enjoy, setting short- and long-term goals and remaining positive. Group ex is all about working out together to achieve our individual fitness goals!
View our schedule of outdoor Pop In and back-to-the-studio indoor Group Exercise classes HERE
Patti Sciulli | WHEN EXERCISE STRESSES YOU OUT
When things are tough, exercise can be a form of stress relief. But if right now, every mile you run feels like a marathon, and every Zoom workout takes 10 times more effort than what you once cranked out in a studio, you’re not alone. Sometimes the stress of just getting through each day can sabotage your workouts and make you tired of working out.
That’s because exercise itself is a stressor.
Before you work out, check in with your stress levels. Are you relaxed enough to get a quality workout from high intensity exercise? Or are you so tense that you’re going to be fighting yourself to get the outcome you want? If you’re feeling run down, think about alternatives to your go-to workout. If you’re a runner, go for a walk. If you love spin classes, try a chill bike ride instead.
If you’re already breaking a sweat, how your body reacts in the first 10-15 minutes of a workout is a good signal of how that workout is going to feel. Think about warming up – that type of intensity should be relaxing. If you’re not sure whether you’re under too much stress, start by extending your warm-up to 15-20 minutes. If at the end of that time you feel better, you get the green light to proceed with your workout. If you still feel bad, continue at the warm-up intensity. And if you feel worse, call it a day and do some light stretching or some simple yoga poses. It’s really okay!
So stress – in small amounts, when it’s limited, when you recover from it, and when you’re able to cope with it -is a good thing.
Shocker: The unique stressors of 2020 broke all of those rules. We don’t feel like we are personally in control, we don’t feel like our communities are in control, and we don’t feel like the country is in control. Anything that is uncontrollable is going to make stress much worse. And when your body is in a prolonged state of high-alert due to non-stop cortisol release, it sucks up a lot of your energy.
In high-stress state of living, you want to listen to your body and give yourself permission to use exercise for good as opposed to being driven by whatever requirements you’ve placed around it. You’ve got to be a little more forgiving and know that your workouts are always going to be ebbing and flowing. We are not going for our A-game right now; we’re going for maintaining until we get back to our A-game. And honestly – IT’S OKAY!
“It’s astounding how much one’s stress levels goes down with the simple act of switching from skinny jeans to yoga pants!”
K. Aleisha Fetters, SilverSneakers | 3 AMAZING HEALTH BENEFITS OF A WALK AFTER DINNER
A 15-minute evening stroll rewards you both mentally and physically.
Strength train. Meditate. Cook your own meals. Get more sleep. Keep
a gratitude journal.
The list of things we’re told we need to do to live a healthier, longer life can quickly overwhelm.
What if we told you there was one simple daily routine that can check off multiple boxes for health improvement in just 15 minutes? Oh, and it’s something you’ll look forward to every day.
Here’s the secret habit: Go for a short walk after dinner, preferably with a partner or group. Why? Let us count the ways.
Health Benefit #1: A Group Walk Lifts Your Spirits
“I’ve seen this tradition of an after-dinner stroll in cities throughout Italy and love it,” says sports dietitian Marie Spano, R.D., whose grandparents hail from Italy. “Every evening, the piazzas are filled with people socializing.”
Called la passeggiata, the evening walk isn’t about getting their heart rate up or working off those carbs. It’s about simply moseying around with loved ones—getting some fresh air, spending time with family, and stumbling into friends along the way.
Don’t worry if you live alone. Consider inviting a neighbor to join you each evening.
Still no takers? Head out solo to take advantage of chance encounters for some lively small talk. Researchers at the University of British Columbia found that short, casual conversations with those you don’t know well leave people with positive emotions.
Chatting about the weather or the home team’s latest win is a simple way to foster a sense of belonging, experts say.
Health Benefit #2: Socializing Is Good for Your Heart
Even if health isn’t the point of these evening walks, it’s an undeniable outcome, Spano says. In fact, researchers spent 50 years, from 1935 to 1985, studying the Italian immigrants who made up Roseto, Pennsylvania. The purpose? To understand why their health was so good. Compared with nearby towns, Roseto had shockingly low rates of
death due to heart attacks. It turns out that the Roseto community’s strong ties to friends and family—through activities like la passeggiata—were to thank.
Scientists now call the positive influence of social support on our health the “Roseto Effect,” explains David Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D., author of “Always Hungry?” and coauthor of “Always Delicious.” Having strong social ties directly affect hormone, blood pressure, and inflammation levels, he adds.
Any opportunity to socialize and feel connected is a good one. According to Brigham Young University researchers, social isolation carries a health risk
(https://www.silversneakers.com/blog/reconnect-isolation/) that’s comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes per day.
Health Benefit #3: Walking After a Meal Stabilizes Your Blood Sugar
If socializing is good for your health, socializing on the move—particularly after dinner—is better. Even a leisurely stroll encourages your body to use glucose, or blood sugar, for energy or to store it for later use as glycogen, says Laura Cipullo, R.D., a dietitian and diabetes educator.
When older adults with poor blood sugar control walked for 15 minutes after each meal, they improved their blood sugar levels far better than when they went on one 45-minute walk per day, according to a Diabetes Care study.
If you compare that to most people’s post-dinner routines of watching TV, paying bills, or checking social media, it’s easy to see how going on a walk around the block immediately following dinner can help improve your health, Dr. Ludwig says.
That’s perhaps the best part of la passeggiata. It takes so little time. Just 15 minutes will have noticeable benefits, Cipullo says. And the longer lease on life is well worth the time investment.
In the mood for a more challenging walk? Check out these nine ways
to kick up your walking workout
Marsha Mullin | WHAT IS TAI CHI?
Tai chi is a form of exercise that began as a Chinese tradition. It’s based in martial arts and involves slow movements and deep breaths. Tai chi has many physical and emotional benefits. Some of the benefits of tai chi include decreased anxiety, depression and improves balance and concentration. It may also help you manage symptoms of some chronic diseases, such as fibromyalgia, arthritis and Parkinson’s.
Here are some of the benefits of Tai Chi:
One of the main benefits of tai chi is its ability to reduce stress and anxiety, though most evidence is anecdotal.
In 2018, one study compared the effects of tai chi on stress-related anxiety to traditional exercise. The study included 50 participants. The researchers found that tai chi provided the same benefits for managing stress-related anxiety as exercise. Because tai chi also includes meditation and focused breathing, the researchers noted that tai chi may be superior to other forms of exercise for reducing stress and anxiety.
Tai chi is very accessible and lower impact than many other forms of exercise. The researchers found it to be safe and inexpensive, so it may be a good option if you are otherwise healthy and experiencing stress-related anxiety.
2. Improves mood
Tai chi may help improve your mood if you are depressed or anxious. Preliminary research suggests that regularly practicing tai chi can reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. It’s believed that the slow, mindful breaths and movements have a positive effect on the nervous system and mood-regulating hormones.
3. Better sleep
Regularly practicing tai chi may help you to have more restful sleep. Tai chi can improve sleep for older adults, too. In a study, researchers found that two months of twice-weekly tai chi classes was associated with better sleep-in older adults with cognitive impairment.
4. Improves cognition in older adults
Tai chi may improve cognition in older adults with cognitive impairment. More specifically, tai chi may help improve memory and executive functioning skills like paying attention and carrying out complex tasks.
5. Reduces risk of falling in adults
Tai chi can help improve balance and motor function and reduce fear of falling in older adults. It can also reduce actual falls after 8 weeks of practice, and significantly reduce falls after 16 weeks of practice. Because fear of falling can reduce independence and quality of life, and falls can lead to serious complications, tai chi may offer the additional benefit of improving quality of life and general well-being in adults.
5. Improves fibromyalgia symptoms
Tai chi may compliment traditional methods for management of certain chronic diseases.
Results from a 2018 study showed that a consistent tai chi practice can decrease the symptoms of fibromyalgia in some people.
6. Improves balance and strength in people with Parkinson’s
In a randomized, controlled trial of 195 participants, regular practice of tai chi was found to decrease the number of falls in people with Parkinson’s disease. Tai chi can also help you to increase leg strength and overall balance.
7. Safe for people with coronary heart disease
Tai chi is a safe form of moderate exercise you can try if you have coronary heart disease. Following a cardiovascular event, regular tai chi practices may help you:
- increase physical activity
- lose weight
- improve your quality of life
8. Reduces pain from arthritis
Participants reported less pain and improved mobility and balance.
Is tai chi safe?
Tai chi is generally considered to be a safe exercise with few side effects. You may experience some aches or pains after practicing tai chi if you’re a beginner.
Tai chi is an exercise that can benefit both healthy adults and adults living with a chronic condition.
A new session starts on June 4 – August 14 at the Squirrel Hill JCC. Registration is required and is limited.
Register at the Centerfit desk.
Questions: Contact Marsha Mullen at [email protected] or 412-339-5415
Steve Manns | PREPARE FOR THE SHOWDOWN
Training for the Hidden Obstacle in Steel City Showdown Obstacle Course Race
We live in Pittsburgh, and hills are part of our lives. If we are walking anywhere, we will encounter a hill. If we are racing – think about the JCC Steel City Showdown coming up in August – we need to be able to power up those hills.
Athletes often don’t think about hills as an obstacle but in any race in this area, hills will be part of the course. How can we make walking, running, or racing on hills easier?
Practice and train.
- Find a hilly trail or neighborhood route for a weekend hike – it is plenty hilly around western Pennsylvania, so you won’t have to look too hard. We all love the flat Rails to Trails, but save those for long walks or runs, not for hill training.
- You can also work in the gym to train your legs for the adventure of hills. Add some mountain climbers or even burpees to your fitness training. Set your treadmill at a high incline.
- Don’t forget, you must get down the hill as well and while you may think that is easier than the uphill, you want to be careful to avoid falls and stress injuries. Downhill running is a skill that requires deliberate practice and a shorter stride. To train, start small, find a small hill, and walk down, then back up. Repeat, running down.
- Obstacle course racing uses all your muscles in 3D, so – train in 3D. Take a class that works you in all planes of motion. Stretch and Strength, Mobility and Strength and Spartan Strong are all classes that work you in 3D. Get yourself ready to excel.
Patti Sciulli | PRACTICE SELF-COMPASSION
If you’re a bit hard on yourself, it’s time to let up… especially now. Practicing self-compassion actually slows the heart rate and decreases your sweat response, a recent study shows. Being kind to yourself could help address stress by activating this response in your body that makes you feel safe and relaxed.
Chronic stress is linked to a host of problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system, so when you feel yourself getting worked up, take a moment and try this: Scan your body from your head to your toes, bringing awareness to each part and gratitude for what it does to keep you alive and active.
And the next time you think you’ve screwed up, pay close attention to how you talk to yourself- chances are you’d be much nicer to a good friend in the same situation.
“You have a choice. You can throw in the towel or use it to wipe the sweat off your face.”
Patti Sciulli | AVOID DISTRACTION WHILE YOU EAT
I totally get it: It’s tempting to try and break the boredom with snacks, lots of snacks! My number one tip is to avoid distraction while you eat. Eat only in the kitchen, not in the bedroom, or office.
- Sit down at the table for ALL meals and snacks and slow the heck down. Take the time to really taste what you are eating.
- Always put your food on a plate, as eating straight from the bag can very quickly lead to overeating. Seeing the portion on the plate helps you visualize just how much you’re taking in. Single-portion packages are helpful, or you can divvy up the contents of a large bag into smaller, healthy individual bags.
- Finally, do a little pantry reorganization: Put the foods you’re most likely to overeat in the back and keep fresh, nutritious items front and center. Out of sight, out of mind really is true. Or, just a thought, don’t even bring those trigger foods into your house.
- Keep a bowl of easy-to-grab fresh fruit on the table in plain sight.
“Food is the most abused anxiety drug! And please remember, you are what you eat, so don’t be fast, cheap, easy or fake!”
You all know this comes from a place of love, right?
Patti Sciulli | SMALL GOALS. I mean REALLY small goals!
Real change happens by setting small, tiny little goals – especially during this crazy time. Let’s say you want to become stronger. Your goal might be to do at least one push-up a day.
This week, think about just one super small habit you want to form, then break it down using this simple habit strategy.
1. CHOOSE A CUE – Even simple and small habits need something to help trigger them and the key is to be specific. You may decide to perform your push-up immediately after brushing your teeth each morning, or as soon as you close your laptop to grab lunch.
2. TRY THE BEHAVIOR – Once the cue occurs, test out your small action. Remember this should feel super doable. Feel free to scale back your goal if you aimed too high.
3. ENJOY THE REWARD – By starting small, you’re setting yourself up for early success and a boost in confidence. This makes it more likely that you’ll keep repeating the behavior…until you’re ready to add to it. Ten push-ups a day – right around the corner!
Remember this works for whatever goal you want to achieve: Better sleep? Eating healthier? More cardio? Just start small…. Really really small!
A little progress each day adds up to BIG results!
Marsha Mullen | The Benefits of Yoga
If you’ve ever done a few sun salutations or downward dogs, it probably comes as no surprise that practicing yoga is incredibly good for you. There’s nothing better than leaving a yoga class feeling zenned, loose and rejuvenated after stretching your body and focusing on your breath. Regardless of your expertise or level of training, if you’re practicing yoga consistently, you’re bound to reap the benefits — some over time and others almost immediately. But what are the benefits of yoga? Some yogis may experience a better night’s sleep, less runny noses and seasonal colds, or perhaps an overall feeling of peace and calm in their day-to-day lives. But, in fact, all the physical and mental benefits of yoga are too many to name — so here’s a list of some of our favorites.
1.Decreases stress and anxiety: Especially this year, I’m sure we’re all looking to de-stress a little (or a lot). Luckily, multiple studies have shown that yoga can decrease levels of cortisol, otherwise known as the stress hormone. Many other studies backup this idea, in addition to demonstrating that yoga can also improve one’s quality of life and overall mental health.
In addition, yoga has also been proven to decrease anxiety. Poses like Savasana, which focus on breath work and a heightened awareness of the present moment, can help yogis find a sense of peace, both on and off the mat.
2. Improves sleep: Of course, if you’re dealing with too much stress these days, it may be taking a toll on your sleep schedule. Whether you have a mind that won’t stop racing or aching muscles that make it difficult to relax, numerous studies have shown that incorporating yoga into your daily routine can potentially promote better sleep. So, if counting sheep hasn’t been doing the trick for you lately, try practicing some relaxing asanas or mindful breathing before bed. You’re bound to catch some z’s in no time.
3. Builds strength: While many people may think that the only way to build strength is to lift weights and sweat away at the gym, in reality, there are so many ways to stretch and tone your muscles — and one of them is yoga! Although experienced yogis may make some postures look easy, many yoga poses can actually be incredibly challenging. Poses like warrior work the quads and upper arms, tree pose works the legs and core while stretching the hips and inner thighs, and the classic plank pose works nearly the full body, including the arms, shoulders, core, and legs. Many of these poses are both physically and mentally challenging, but if practiced consistently overtime, you’ll undoubtedly be able to boost your strength and increase endurance.
4. Increases energy: Like most exercise in general, practicing yoga has the power to boost endorphins, thus increasing your energy levels. Whether you’re in a more relaxed flow like Hatha or a more vigorous flow like Vinyasa, yoga is a gentle way to get your blood pumping and heart beating, which can lead to more energy, both mentally and physically, throughout the day. As a result, you may have an improved alertness and vitality, allowing you to fight off negative feelings and thoughts when they arise.
5. Can reduce chronic pain: If you’re one of the millions who suffer from chronic pain, whether it be back pain, arthritis, headaches, or carpal tunnel syndrome, you may be happy to hear that yoga is a great way to relieve some discomfort. With a strong emphasis on stretching the muscles and improving flexibility, yoga has the potential to loosen stiff, aching joints. Furthermore, if working from home and sitting in front of the computer all day has been taking a toll on your back and shoulders, daily yoga can potentially improve your posture, allowing you to sit up straighter and alleviate back pain in the long run.
6. Lowers blood pressure: While many benefits of yoga can be almost immediate, practicing consistently can also benefit you later in life. Various studies show that yoga is a powerful tool to lower blood pressure, increase heart health, and slow the progression of heart disease. By encouraging reduced stress levels, minimal inflammation, and regulating the heart rate, yoga has the ability to not only increase your quality of life, but also potentially add valuable years to your life.
While each of these six benefits can result from a regular yoga practice, we’re confident that, if you make yoga a part of your daily lifestyle, you’re bound to discover benefits beyond those mentioned. Whether you’re looking to use yoga to target a specific ailment or to simply feel better mentally and physically, yoga can offer something good for everybody. Whatever your age, experience, or level of fitness, we encourage you to give yoga a try and witness the results for yourself.
Marsha Mullen | What is your heart rate?
Your heart rate, or pulse, is the number of times your heart beats in a minute. Everyone’s is different, and it changes as you get older. Understanding your heart rate and what’s a healthy one for you is an important part of taking care of yourself.
Your Resting Heart Rate: This is the number of times your heart beats in a minute when you’re not active and your heart isn’t having to work hard to pump blood through your body. Some medications like beta-blockers can slow your heartbeat and lower your resting heart rate.
A Healthy Resting Heart Rate: Most healthy adults should have a resting heart rate between 60 and 100 beats a minute. In general, the more physically fit you are, the lower your heart rate will be. Athletes can have a normal resting heart rate in the 40s. A healthy one is a sign that your heart isn’t having to work too hard to circulate blood.
How to Check It: You can feel your heart rate by putting your first two fingers on the inside of your wrist, the inside of your elbow, the side of your neck, or on the top of your foot. Once you find it, count how many beats you feel in 15 seconds, and multiply that number by 4.
How to Lower It: This can be as easy as simply relaxing — sit down, have a glass of water, or just take a few deep breaths. A healthier lifestyle, including getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, eating healthier, watching your weight, and cutting down alcohol, caffeine, and smoking can help, too. If that’s not enough, you might try to find ways to better handle stress, like tai chi, meditation, or mindfulness.
Arrhythmia: A Problem With Your Heart Rate When your heart’s beating rhythm is off, that’s called an arrhythmia. There are four major types:
- Tachycardia: When your heart beats too fast, usually more than 100 beats a minute
- Bradycardia: When your heart beats too slowly, below 60 beats a minute (unless you’re an athlete)
- Supraventricular arrhythmia: An arrhythmia that starts in your heart’s upper chambers
- Ventricular arrhythmia: An arrhythmia that starts in your heart’s lower chambers
Causes of Arrythmia: Several things can lead to arrythmia. These include clogged or hardened arteries, high blood pressure, or issues with your heart’s valves. It also can be the result of trauma from a heart attack. It can happen as you recover from heart surgery, and if your electrolytes are out of balance. For example, if your body has too much or too little potassium.
Elevated Heart Rate (Tachycardia): A resting heart rate higher than 100 beats per minute happens most often in kids. It’s also more common in women. The primary causes of a fast heart rate include stress, smoking, or drinking too much alcohol, coffee, or other caffeinated drinks.
Low Heart Rate (Bradycardia): A heart rate lower than 60 beats per minute can be caused by an infection, a problem with your thyroid gland (hypothyroidism), a chemical imbalance in your blood, breathing problems while you sleep (obstructive sleep apnea), or inflammatory diseases like lupus. It also can be caused by a problem with how your heart developed before you were born.
Heart Rate and Exercise
When you work out, you want your heart rate to go up, but not too much. To find the right number, start by figuring out your maximum rate: Subtract your age from 220. If you’re just starting a fitness regimen, your target should be about 50% of your maximum heart rate. If you already exercise regularly, it might be closer to 85%. Some devices and machines, like a treadmill, keep track of your heart rate.
When to See Your Doctor
Call your doctor if you’re taking a medication that causes you to have fainting spells or dizziness. Also reach out if you notice that you often have a fast heartbeat or a low pulse. Depending on what’s going on with you, your doctor might change your medications, recommend a pacemaker to get your heart beating in the right rhythm, or suggest other things to prevent or manage your condition.
Marsha Mullen | 6 Steps to Strengthen Your Immune System
Your immune system is important. Very much like your own personal army, it guards your body against attacks from invaders (like bacteria, fungi, and viruses), defending against infections and several kinds of cancer. And it’s smart, too, often “remembering” certain infections so it’s ready for them the next time they try to attack. But just like any other body system, your immune system can deteriorate if you don’t treat it well. Keep it functioning at its peak performance, so you can stay healthy, too, by following these six steps.
- Eat Right: In theory, this one is pretty simple: Eat just enough of the right foods when you feel hungry. Unfortunately, this isn’t as simple to put into practice. We’re tempted by unhealthy options everywhere we turn, we eat for emotional reasons, or we don’t even know what the “right” foods are. For those of us who struggle in this area, this may take some work.
Avoid eating too much, which can lead to weight gain and harm the immune system. Research performed by scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine has shown that obesity prevents the immune system from functioning properly, increasing its vulnerability to infection. In the study, obese mice were found to be 50 percent less capable of killing the flu virus, compared to lean mice. The researchers believe that the same holds true in humans.
Just as important as how much you’re eating, is what foods you’re eating. Some nutrients and foods that have been found to enhance the immune system include:
Vitamin C-rich foods, like citrus fruit and broccoli Vitamin E-rich foods, like nuts and whole grains Garlic Zinc-rich foods, like beans, turkey, crab, oysters, and beef Bioflavanoids, which are found in fruits and vegetables Selenium-rich foods, like chicken, whole grains, tuna, eggs, sunflower seeds, and brown rice Carotenoid-rich foods, like carrots and yams
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in nuts, salmon, tuna, mackerel, flaxseed oil and hempseed oil.
Of course, you can find these nutrients in pill form, but food is always the best and most usable source of vitamins and minerals. Supplements can be shady, since no regulating body ensures that they contain what they claim to, or that they’ll be absorbed as well as nutrients you get from food.
Some immune system all-stars that have recently garnered a lot of attention in the scientific community are vegetables from the brassica family, like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and cabbage. According to a new study led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and published online in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, a chemical produced when these vegetables are eaten can stop the growth of cancer cells and boost the production of certain components of the immune system. Turns out, Mom was onto something when telling you to each your broccoli!
- Exercise Regularly: According to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports (PCPFS), data from numerous studies show that regular exercise reduces the number of sick days. In three separate studies, women who engaged in 35-45 minutes of brisk walking, five days a week, for 12-15 weeks experienced a reduced number of sick days compared to the control (sedentary) group. Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous to provide these benefits—in fact moderate exercise may even achieve a better result. A study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found that upper respiratory infections were more common among athletes during heavy training. Whatever you do, listen to your body. If you’re under the weather already, take it easy until you feel better.
- Get Enough Sleep: Deep sleep stimulates and energizes the immune system, while sleep deprivation has the opposite effect. According to authors of a sleep study published in the journal Seminars in Clinical Neuropsychiatry, significant detrimental effects on immune functioning can be seen after a few days of total sleep deprivation or even several days of just partial sleep deprivation. According to the National Institutes of Health, the average adult needs between 7 and 8 hours a night, although some people may need as few as 5 hours or as many as 10 hours. To make sure you are getting enough quality sleep, avoid caffeinated drinks (and other stimulants), decongestants, tobacco and alcohol. Alcohol can assist falling into a light sleep, but it interferes with REM and the deeper stages of sleep, which are restorative.
- Manage Stress: Between fender benders, work deadlines, marital problems and hectic schedules, keeping stress out of your life is impossible. But how you choose to react to stress can greatly impact your overall health. Sweeping problems under the rug as opposed to solving them can turn short-term stress into chronic stress, which can cause health problems. According to the National Institutes of Health, hormones (like cortisol) that hang around during chronic stress can put us at risk for obesity, heart disease, cancer, and a variety of other illnesses. These stress hormones can work in two ways, either switching off disease-fighting white blood cells or triggering a hyperactive immune system, which increases your risk of developing auto-immune diseases. So find ways to de-stress a few times per week, whether you exercise, practice yoga, meditate, or take a relaxing bath.
- Quit Smoking: In an older but still relevant study published in the 1983 edition of the Medical Journal of Australia, immune system markers in 35 smokers were analyzed before they quit smoking and then again three months after they had quit. Compared with a control group who continued to smoke, the ex-smokers had significant, positive changes in many measurements of their immune systems. Smoking and using tobacco products contributes to a host of health problems, and this is one more you can add to your list for reasons to quit.
- Consume Alcohol in Moderation: Chronic alcohol abuse is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as the use of alcoholic beverages despite negative consequences. Besides the social and economic consequences of chronic alcohol abuse, an article in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research states that alcohol abuse can also cause lead to immunodeficiency, making you more susceptible to bacterial pneumonia, tuberculosis, and other communicable diseases. But the moderate use of alcohol (one drink daily for women, and two for men) has not been associated with negative effects on the immune system. In fact, according to an article in the British Journal of Nutrition, there is an increasing body of evidence linking health benefits linked with moderate consumption of polyphenol-rich alcoholic beverages, like wine or beer. The article states that, while heavy alcohol use can suppress the immune response, “moderate alcohol consumption seems to have a beneficial impact on the immune system compared to alcohol abuse or abstinence.” So for the time being, the advice remains: everything in moderation.
Marsha Mullen | Get Your Vitamin D!
If you shun the sun, suffer from milk allergies, or adhere to a strict vegan diet, you may be at risk for vitamin D deficiency. Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is produced by the body in response to skin being exposed to sunlight. It is also occurs naturally in a few foods — including some fish, fish liver oils, and egg yolks — and in fortified dairy and grain products.
Vitamin D is essential for strong bones, because it helps the body use calcium from the diet. Traditionally, vitamin D deficiency has been associated with rickets, a disease in which the bone tissue doesn’t properly mineralize, leading to soft bones and skeletal deformities. But increasingly, research is revealing the importance of vitamin D in protecting against a host of health problems.
Symptoms and Health Risks of Vitamin D Deficiency: Symptoms of bone pain and muscle weakness can mean you have a vitamin D deficiency. However, for many people, the symptoms are subtle. Yet, even without symptoms, too little vitamin D can pose health risks. Low blood levels of the vitamin have been associated with the following:
- Increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease
- Cognitive impairment in older adults
- Severe asthma in children
- Cancer Research suggests that vitamin D could play a role in the prevention and treatment of a number of different conditions, including type1 and type 2 diabetes, hypertension, glucose intolerance, and multiple sclerosis.
Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency: Vitamin D deficiency can occur for a number of reasons:
- You don’t consume the recommended levels of the vitamin over time. This is likely if you follow a strict vegan diet, because most of the natural sources are animal-based, including fish and fish oils, egg yolks, fortified milk, and beef liver.
- Your exposure to sunlight is limited. Because the body makes vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight, you may be at risk of deficiency if you are homebound, live in northern latitudes, wear long robes or head coverings for religious reasons, or have an occupation that prevents sun exposure. During the winter, vitamin D deficiency can be more prevalent because there is less sunlight available.
- You have dark skin. The pigment melanin reduces the skin’s ability to make vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure. Some studies show that older adults with darker skin are at high risk of vitamin D deficiency.
- Your kidneys cannot convert vitamin D to its active form. As people age, their kidneys are less able to convert vitamin D to its active form, thus increasing their risk of vitamin D deficiency.
- Your digestive tract cannot adequately absorb vitamin D. Certain medical problems, including Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and celiac disease, can affect your intestine’s ability to absorb vitamin D from the food you eat.
- You are obese. Vitamin D is extracted from the blood by fat cells, altering its release into the circulation. People with a body mass index of 30 or greater often have low blood levels of vitamin D.
Tests for Vitamin D Deficiency: The most accurate way to measure how much vitamin D is in your body is the 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test. A level of 20 nanograms/milliliter to 50 ng/mL is considered adequate for healthy people. A level less than 12 ng/mL indicates vitamin D deficiency.
Treatment for Vitamin D Deficiency involves getting more vitamin D – through diet and supplements. Although there is no consensus on vitamin D levels required for optimal health – and it likely differs depending on age and health conditions – a concentration of less than 20 nanograms per milliliter is generally considered inadequate, requiring treatment.
Guidelines from the Institute of Medicine increased the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin D to 600 international units (IU) for everyone ages 1-70, and raised it to 800 IU for adults older than age 70 to optimize bone health. The safe upper limit was also raised to 4,000 IU. Doctors may prescribe more than 4,000 IU to correct a vitamin D deficiency.
If you don’t spend much time in the sun or always are careful to cover your skin (sunscreen inhibits vitamin D production), you should speak to your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement, particularly if you have risk factors for vitamin D deficiency.
Info from WebMD
Marsha Mullen: 4 Steps to Improving Your Posture
Stand Taller, Look 10 Pounds Thinner
If the eyes are the windows to the soul, then posture is a lens to our health. Sit and stand with proper posture and you will physically look 10 years younger—and 10 pounds lighter. Psychologically, good posture conveys confidence, poise and leadership.
Unfortunately, few of us exhibit good posture, let alone perfect posture. In fact, poor posture often develops so gradually that you may notice its symptoms (back and neck pain, tightness and stiffness, increased injury and some loss to your normal range of motion) long before you notice your shoulders hunching over.
Luckily, you can correct your posture by incorporating some simple posture exercises and stretches into your workout program.
Good posture results when the muscles of the body align properly, allowing for efficient movement. When your body’s muscles and joints are balanced and supported, you’re better able to perform everyday activities, such as squatting to pick up laundry or running down a flight of stairs efficiently.
When you are poorly aligned, the joints in your body (e.g., shoulders, spine, hips, knees and ankles) do not fit together properly. This causes some muscles to work harder than others. Over time, those muscles become tense while the others weaken, creating muscular imbalances that slowly devolve into poor posture. As posture deteriorates further, joint movements become restricted and the differences between tense and weak muscles places greater stress on your joints, which then have to compensate. This causes pain, stiffness and loss of motion throughout the body. But fix these imbalances, and your posture (and the pain associated with it) will improve.
A qualified personal trainer at the JCC can provide information about your posture by observing it during a comprehensive assessment.
Improve Your Posture in 4 Easy Steps:
Your personal trainer may recommend specific exercises for you, based on the findings of your postural assessment. But even without the aid of a trainer, you can work to improve your posture by adding corrective strengthening and stretching exercises to your fitness program. Perform the exercises and stretches listed below two to three times a week for 15 to 20 minutes per session. Remember to breathe steadily and hold stretches for a minimum of 15 to 20 seconds. For strengthening exercises, perform two to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions using good form and technique.
Step 1: Strengthen Your Core: Good posture starts with a strong core, which includes the abdominals (both the rectus abdominals that form the “six-pack” and the deeper transverse abdominals below them), lower back, obliques and hips. Strong core muscles don’t just keep your back healthy and resistant to pain and injury; they also hold your body upright, improve balance and enable you to move your body with greater control and efficiency. If any (or all) of your core muscles are weak, other muscles have to compensate, resulting in loss of motion, weakness and pain. In fact, you can alleviate and prevent low-back pain through regular core training.
Sample exercises that strengthen these core muscles:
Basic crunches (rectus abdominals) (and other variations of the crunch, as long as you’re avoiding full sit-ups) Side plank (obliques) Crunches with twist (abs, obliques) Standing side bends (obliques) Plank hold (transverse abdominals) Note that any isometric core exercise will also work these deep muscles, as will many Pilates exercises.
- Back extensions (lower back)
- Slow swimming (bird dogs) on ball (lower back)
Step 2: Fix Rounded Shoulders
Rounded shoulders, although common, are actually a postural abnormality caused by spending hours hunched over behind a computer or desk, while driving a car or watching television, or while performing repetitive tasks on the job. In these forward-reaching positions, your chest, shoulders and hip muscles become shortened and tight while the muscles of your upper and middle back weaken. You can improve your posture by strengthening the weak upper back muscles, while stretching tight muscles in the chest, shoulders, lats and hips. As the upper back becomes stronger and the chest becomes more flexible, the shoulders naturally pull back—a sign of improved posture.
Sample posture exercises that strengthen the upper back:
- Reverse dumbbell flys
- Rows with resistance band
Sample posture exercises that stretch these tight muscles:
- Standing chest stretch (chest, shoulders)
- Standing quad stretch (quads, hips)
Step 3: Neutralize Tilted Hips
When viewed from the side, your hips should be neutral and level. Some people’s hips tilt forward, a postural abnormality known as anterior (forward) pelvic tilt. Lordosis (or “swayback”) is another symptom of this tilt. Caused by weakness in the hamstrings (back of thighs), glutes (butt) and abs and tightness in the hip flexors and thighs, this is common in people who sit all or most of the day and spend hours with their legs bent. Here’s a quick way to identify if you have any sort of pelvic tilt: Look at your belt line. Wearing your regular pants and a belt, when viewed from the side, the belt should be level all the way around the waist. If your belt line is higher in the back and lower in the front, you need to strengthen the weak muscles in your hamstrings, glutes and abs, while improving the flexibility of your thighs and hip flexors.
Sample exercises that strengthen the hamstrings and glutes:
- Core exercises listed above (abs)
- Bridges (hamstrings and glutes)
- Leg curls with medicine ball (hamstrings) Single-leg hamstring flexion with ball (hamstrings, glutes) Sample exercises that stretch tight hip and quad muscles:
- Standing quad stretch (quads, hips)
- Kneeling quad and hip stretch (quads, psoas)
Step 4: Retract a Forward Head
When driving your car, how often is your head touching the headrest behind you? More often than not, your head is forward, not even touching the headrest that is behind you. Hours, days and years of driving a car, watching TV or working in front of a computer tighten the front and side neck muscles and weaken the deep and rear muscles of the neck. Most people think of the back and shoulders as keys to good posture, but the position of your head and neck is just as important. When viewed from the side, your ears should be above your shoulders. But most people’s heads (and therefore ears) push forward of the shoulders; this is usually accompanied by a protruding chin and rounded shoulders (see “step two” above). The muscles at the front of your neck must be strong enough to hold your head directly above the shoulders (instead of forward). By fixing the tight and weak areas of the neck, your head will once again center itself just above the shoulders—a sign of proper posture that may also decrease chronic neck pain caused by these imbalances.
Sample exercises that strengthen the weak neck muscles:
- Neck retraction exercise (upper trapezius and deep cervical flexors): Elongate the back of your neck by gently pulling your chin straight in as if you are hiding behind a tree and don’t want your head to stick out past its edge. The highest point of your body should be the top back of your head. This counters the tendency to slip into a forward head posture.
- Headrest exercise (upper trapezius and deep cervical flexors): While driving, practice pulling your chin in and pushing your head into the headrest behind you for a few seconds at a time, then releasing. If you have a high-back chair that you sit in at work, you can do this during your workday, too.
Sample exercises that stretch these tight neck muscles:
- Neck stretches (scalenes and sternocleidomastoids) Use minimal force to prevent injury to the spine.
- Myofascial neck release with foam roller (to decrease neck stiffness and tightness)
Keep in mind that poor posture doesn’t happen overnight, and there is no magic bullet to fix it other than consistently following these strength and flexibility exercises. To speed up the process, consider making adjustments in your daily routine. Rearrange your workspace and adjust your car seat so that you sit upright; upgrade to a firmer mattress to support your back; and do your best to stand and sit tall with your head high and your shoulders pulled down and back each day. In addition, women should wear high-heeled shoes sparingly to reduce tightness in the calves and switch sides of the body when carrying heavy purses.
As your posture improves, you will look younger and thinner and appear more confident. You’ll also feel better, prevent back pain and improve athletic performance. Why wait for postural problems to get worse? Start incorporating these simple exercises and stretches into your workouts and workdays to start seeing results!
For information about working on your posture with a JCC Personal Trainer, please contact:
Squirrel Hill – Laurie Wood [email protected]
South Hills – Elaine Cappucci [email protected]
Laurie Wood: Physical Activity Helps You FEEL BETTER
Physical activity is linked with better sleep, memory, balance and cognitive ability. Exercise also decreases your risk of weight gain, chronic disease, dementia and depression. It is one of the most important things you can do for your health and well-being.
Laurie Wood: Add Muscle
Include moderate to high intensity muscle strengthening activity twice a week like Group Power or Group Active or set up a session with one of our Personal Trainers to develop a program designed to meet your needs and goals.
To learn about the JCC’s many Virtual and In Person fitness options, click HERE
Marsha Mullen: “You are what you eat.”
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “You are what you eat.” While it’s true that food is fuel, it’s also true that food is broken down and transformed into cells, hormones, muscles and… YOU! When you think of food in this light, it can make it easier to make healthy and nutritious choices for your body.
March is National Nutrition Month® – a time to focus on making informed food choices for a balanced and healthy diet.
Keep a food diary. Before you can improve your nutrition you have to know where you stand. Record everything you eat and drink for five days and use these tips to improve your diet a little bit each day.
Eat breakfast. It boosts your energy, metabolism and mental focus. Plus, breakfast eaters consume fewer calories throughout the day than people who skip this meal.
Enjoy 2-4 servings of fruit each day. Fruits are rich in nutrients, fiber, phytochemicals and antioxidants, which all help prevent disease. One serving is equal to 1/2 cup.
Drink water. It’s the only beverage your body really needs and craves. Gradually replace soda, flavored coffees, sugary drinks and other high-calorie liquids with water. Aim for 8-12 cups each day.
Avoid trans fats. They increase your risk of heart disease. Foods with “partially hydrogenated oil” as an ingredient contain trans fat (even if the label says 0 grams) and should be left on the grocery shelf.
Eat 4-6 servings of vegetables daily. High in nutrients and low in calories, veggies can help prevent diabetes, stroke, heart disease and more. One serving is equal to 1/2 cup.
Aim for 3-6 servings of grains each day. Rich in energy-boosting carbohydrates, vitamins and fiber, they’re important for overall health. One serving is equal to 1/2-cup cooked (rice, pasta, oats) or 1 oz. (1 slice bread).
Consume 5 to 6.5 ounces of protein daily. Examples include: Half a chicken breast (3 oz), 1 can tuna (3.5 oz), 1 Tbsp. peanut butter (1 oz), 1 egg (1 oz) and 1/2 cup cooked beans (2 oz).
Fill up on fiber. Found in fruits, veggies,whole grains and beans, fiber will keep you fuller longer and reduce your risk of a variety of diseases. Gradually increase your daily intake to 25-35 grams.
Marsha Mullen: Meditation to Boost Health and Well-Being
Practicing mindfulness and meditation may help you manage stress and high blood pressure, sleep better, feel more balanced and connected, and even lower your risk of heart disease.
Meditation and mindfulness are practices — often using breathing, quiet contemplation or sustained focus on something, such as an image, phrase or sound — that help you let go of stress and feel more calm and peaceful. Think of it as a mini-vacation from the stress in your life! Stress is your body’s natural alarm system. It releases a hormone called adrenaline that makes your breathing speed up and your heart rate and blood pressure rise. It kicks us into action, which can be a good thing when we’re faced with a real danger or need to perform.
But that “fight or flight” response can take a toll on your body when it goes on too long or is a regular occurrence. Mindfulness meditation provides a method for handling stress in a healthier way.
Meditation can improve wellbeing and quality of life.
Recent studies have offered promising results about the impact of meditation in reducing blood pressure. There is also evidence that it can help people manage insomnia, depression and anxiety.
Some research suggests that meditation physically changes the brain and could help:
- increase ability to process information
- slow the cognitive effects of aging
- reduce inflammation
- support the immune system
- reduce symptoms of menopause
- control the brain’s response to pain
- improve sleep
More research is needed, but it’s clear that meditation’s effects on the body and brain are a no-brainer!
Find the method that works for you. There are many different types of meditation, including:
- compassion (metta or loving-kindness),
- insight (Vipassana),
- mantra, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), relaxation, Transcendental, Zen, and others.
It could be as simple as sitting quietly and focusing on your breath. When your mind wanders (and it will!), gently bring it back to the breath again. Gradually increase the amount of time you’re able to stay focused. If you’re not sure how to get started, look for online classes on meditation, get recommendations from friends, or research different types that interest you.
Transcendental meditation is a technique that allows your mind to focus inward, staying alert to other thoughts or sensations without allowing them to interfere. It’s typically done seated with your eyes closed for 20 minutes, twice a day. Mindfulness meditation may use an object of focus, such as the ringing of a bell, chanting, touching beads or gazing at an image. Prayer can also be a form of mediation.
Not all meditation is done sitting down with your legs crossed and eyes closed. Moving meditation forms include qi gong, Tai Chi and yoga.
The bottom line — While meditation can help you manage stress, sleep well and feel better, it shouldn’t replace lifestyle changes like eating healthier, managing your weight, and getting regular physical activity. It’s also not a substitute for medication or medical treatment your doctor may have prescribed.
Try different types of meditation to find what works for you, and make it a regular part of your healthy lifestyle.