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Healthy and Fit | Tip of the Week

Posted by JCC Pittsburgh on February 1, 2022
Healthy and Fit | Tip of the Week


High intensity interval training or HIIT is a form of cardio exercise done in short, intense bursts that aims to maximize athletic performance under conditions where the muscles are deprived of oxygen.

HIIT is a great form of exercise to include in your workout routine if you are seeking to build strength and muscle endurance or trying to lose weight.

Why HIIT is so good for you?

• HIIT is an effective way to burn fat You might already know that cardio exercises are effective for fat mobilization. As a pumped up and intense form of cardio, HIIT is the best exercise to engage in when your goal is to burn away stubborn fat. The intensity of the exercise leads to an increased rate of fat oxidation as well as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, which occurs when your body recovers from its oxygen-deprived state during the HIIT exercise. During this stage, adipose tissues are broken down and converted into fuel.

• HIIT regulates your appetite If you’re prone to overeating, HIIT will do you some good in managing your appetite. The intensity of HIIT causes a decrease in the amount of ghrelin – an appetite-regulating hormone – which reduces your appetite. At the same time, HIIT also increases your blood sugar and blood lactate level temporarily, which also brings your appetite down.

• HIIT increases the amount of oxygen your body can absorb in a minute This rate is known as VO2max – a word that gets thrown around a lot when it comes to HIIT. VO2max is important because it affects the physical capacity of your athletic performance. With a higher VO2max, your body has better endurance in aerobic exercises. Besides improving athletic conditioning, an increased VO2max also brings us better overall health.

VO2max is strongly associated with the health of our telomeres, which are components of our DNA system that regulate the ageing of our cells. Healthy telomeres mean more youthful cells and a reduced risk of cancer.

• HIIT regulates blood glucose levels People suffering from pre-diabetes or type-2 diabetes can benefit significantly from HIIT because the sport actually increases glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity, thus helping to regulate blood glucose at healthy levels.

• HIIT is a more efficient form of cardio exercise HIIT makes it easier to hit the desired number of cardio hours that you need to clock because it’s far more time-efficient. In fact, every hour of HIIT is roughly equivalent to 4 hours of conventional endurance training!

Anyone who does sports can benefit from HIIT. Performance-wise, it makes you fitter, stronger and also improves your general health outside of sports. However, implementing HIIT into your routine isn’t as simple as revving up the number of reps you need to do and reducing the time to complete the sets. There are a number of ways to break down the intervals in HIIT and also methods to ensure you are doing it right.

Getting started on HIIT

First of all, it’s important to note that HIIT is all about performing at your maximum ability for a short burst of time and then taking a short break. There are a number of ways to structure your exercise to rest ratio. Some people prefer 1:1 exercise to rest ratio, but a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio work perfectly fine too. The rest time depends on your current fitness level, so if you don’t exercise regularly, a longer rest time would be more ideal. There are also many different ways to structure your workout, but here are some of the common ones.

• Circuit Circuits are great if you want to train various muscles as you will be rotating between different stations in a circuit workout. In circuit, you will spend half to one minute at each station before moving to the next station. The time taken to recover, move and adjust to the new station is the rest timing.

• Pyramid Pyramid is structured similarly to circuit, but the difference lies in the number of repetitions you do at each station. With circuits for example, the number of repetitions is constant but for pyramids you can choose to either step up or step down the number of repetitions.

• As many rounds as possible This type of workout is simple but can be very grueling – all you need to do is set a timer and then keep going until the time is up. There are no “goals” to hit and you only have to strive to do as much as you can.

• Every minute on the minute (EMOM) In this one, your workout is broken into one-minute intervals. In each interval, you have to complete a designated number of reps of certain exercises. The remaining time before the minute is up is your rest time. Once the minute is over, you restart on a new minute and work to complete your reps all over again.

Feeling breathless from just reading about the intensity? You might be glad to know that HIIT doesn’t have to be done every day. All you need is two or three solid sessions every week and you’re good to go. Rest days are a must – minimally, you should have a 24-hour gap between HIIT sessions to allow your body time to recover. Skipping the rest day can lead to overuse injuries and mental/physical burnout, which could lead to you giving up on exercise for a while so remember to prioritize your rest days.


Stay satisfied between meals with these 100-calorie bites.

When it comes to losing weight, snacking can make or break your progress. And while store-bought packaged snacks may be convenient, they’re often filled with added sugar, sodium, and other ingredients to be wary of.

“The 100-calorie snack packs can be a great, easy way to control portions of snacks that people tend to go overboard on, but there are healthier options,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, R.D., author of Feed the Belly.

In other words, those petite packets of chips, cookies, and other junk food are ideal for the occasions when you have, say, a Chex Mix craving that nothing less can satisfy. But that one bag is still 100 empty calories of processed junk. It won’t kill you when you have a craving, but you can do better.

What’s a Healthy Snack?

No surprise: Fruit is a great option. “Fruit is perfectly portion-controlled,” Largeman-Roth says. “An apple, orange, pear, or banana comes in its own biodegradable package and is generally under 100 calories.”

When you’re trying to lose weight, a 100- to 150-calorie snack once or twice per day is appropriate, Largeman-Roth says. To keep energy and blood sugar steady between meals, you want to aim for an even combo of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. Carbohydrates give you quick fuel, and protein and healthy fats help you feel satisfied.

10 Simple Ideas for Healthy Snacks

Create your own healthy snacks with the suggestions below. They’re all around 100 calories. And they’re all packed with the nutrients your body needs plus fiber to keep you feeling full.

  1. 7 walnuts
  2. 25 pistachios
  3. 3 cups air-popped popcorn + a little sea salt + a tiny drizzle of truffle oil
  4. ½ cup fat-free Greek yogurt + ⅓ cup fresh mango cubes
  5. 1 small apple + 1 teaspoon almond butter
  6. 1 Mini Babybel Light cheese + 1 whole grain Wasa cracker
  7. 2 tablespoons hummus + ½ cup vegetables (5 broccoli florets or 6 medium baby carrots)
  8. 25 frozen grapes
  9. ½ cup oatmeal + 5 sliced strawberries
  10. 2 cups kale chips


How are your New Year resolutions coming along? It’s never too late to reinforce achieving your goals with some specific tactics!

Behavior experts say that it takes about 1 month to form new habits, and many people try to create (or break) habits at the start of each year. With the right attitude and focus, you can stick to your New Year’s resolutions and achieve long-term success. Here are just a few tips to help you do exactly that.

  1. Are your goals specific and positive? Rather than vowing “to exercise” for example, reword each goal so that it’s clear and measurable: I will walk 30 minutes every day. I will complete a 5K race. I will attend a Yoga class twice a week.
  2. Post your written goals in places where you’ll see them often – on your fridge or computer, in a picture frame on your desk, as a bookmark and in your wallet. These reminders will help you stay focused and on track.
  3. Share your goals with family and friends for invaluable support and assistance. Confiding in them is a powerful motivator for helping you remain consistent and persistent.
  4. Develop a plan B. Work, travel or kids will disrupt your routine, so create alternatives: Walk during lunch, choose healthy fast foods, or wake up earlier. Doing Something, is always better than Nothing.
  5. Take advantage of technology. Sign up for motivational emails or text messages, set reminders on your computer or phone, or have a friend call and check in on you. These little things will keep you focused no matter where you are.

“You don’t have to be great to START, but you do have to START to be great!”



As we head into a new calendar year, many people will reflect upon the previous year and look forward to the New Year. We will all be inundated with “New Year, New You!” type of advertisements.

So what exactly do you want to accomplish in 2023? Is it something health related such as losing weight, growing your business or starting a new business, or is it something about your personal development?

Whatever you want to achieve this year, you probably need to make some type of change to yourself or your habits. Here are some tips on changing your habits to meet your goals.

  1. Commit Time: Everyone has probably heard that it takes 21 days for something to become a habit. I suggest using a month as a measurement of time for new habits. Commit to something for one month and plan one month at a time. The chunk of time will seem more manageable and you feel as though you have accomplished your goal faster than starting with a longer-term goal.
  2. Action Plan: We’ve said it before: Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail. To create a new habit, you need to make an action plan or strategy for making that new habit. How will you help yourself make this new habit? What tools do you need?
  3. Start Simple: It is human nature to want to change everything at once. But this strategy also sets us up for failure. Instead, choose one or two things that you feel you can accomplish. Once you’ve tackled those goals, make another one or two goals.
  4. Grab a Buddy: The easiest way to make yourself accountable is to get the help of a friend, co-worker, or family member. If this isn’t available to you, then make yourself accountable in other ways. Write down the goal and make it visible so you see it every day. There are also apps available that can help to keep you accountable for the goals you make.
  5. Remove Temptations: Depending upon the goal this might be difficult, but remove as many temptations as you can, especially in the beginning. Will power can only take you so far—you can resist the cookie jar 1,000 times but it only takes once to slip up. Instead, remove the temptation in the first place. Out of sight, out of mind.
  6. Start Now: Instead of waiting for next Monday, the next day, the next month, the New Year, start your goal right now!

This post originally was published at the end of 2017. We appreciate Brittany’s timeless advice!

7 THINGS YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW TO BOOST YOUR MOOD | Elizabeth Millard, SilverSneakers

Need a pick-me-up? Try one — or several — of these evidence-back strategies to relieve stress and improve your mood.

It’s normal to have moments of feeling down or stressed. Sometimes the reason is obvious. (You’re running late. Foul weather ruined a planned outing.) Other times, the culprit is a mystery. Either way, what you want is to turn the day around — fast.   The good news is that there are many simple things you can do in the moment to boost your mood. Not only will you feel better, your overall health will reap the benefits, too. Finding meaningful ways to brighten your outlook can be good for your physical health, says Scott Kaiser, MD. He’s a geriatrician and director of geriatric cognitive health for Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California.

“Mental and physical health are not separate. They affect each other in powerful ways,” he says. “For example, if you do things to lift your emotional health, it can have a ripple effect on your sleep, energy levels, and chronic pain. So, it’s worth making the effort to find simple ways to find joy every day.”

Try adding one or more of these evidence-backed strategies to your daily routine.

Instant mood lifter #1: Get moving with a friend Exercise is a well-known mood-booster. An abundance of research shows it is effective for treating depression, according to a 2021 review published in frontiers in psychiatry. Any kind of movement works, says Dr. Kaiser. And adding a social component can help even more.

That doesn’t mean you need to recruit a pal every time you exercise. But if you’re feeling down, calling a friend while taking a walk can be a powerful combo, he notes.

Instant mood lifter #2: Go outside Whether you’re in a city park, on a woodsy hiking trail, or on your own front stoop, there’s ample evidence that being in nature can improve your mental health. Spending time in nature can improve everything from cognitive function and memory to happiness and general well-being, reports the American Psychology Association (APA).

A study in frontiers in psychology found that even looking at green space can lower stress levels. How much time should you spend outdoors? One 2019 study found that about 2 hours a week is the sweet spot. And it doesn’t matter if that comes from one long hike or short daily strolls in your neighborhood.

Instant mood lifter #3: Drink a glass of water Research suggests that mild dehydration can affect your mood, thinking skills and alertness, according to a 2019 review published in the journal nature. Dehydration creates a higher concentration of sodium in the blood stream, explains Barbara Bergin, MD. She’s a surgeon at Texas Orthopedics in Austin.

“This causes a shift in cellular water from our brain cells into the blood stream,” Dr. Bergin says. “So, our brain cells shrink and they don’t work as well.”

That may result in confusion, sluggishness, and poor concentration. Stay hydrated by sipping water throughout the day — don’t wait until you feel thirsty.

Instant mood lifter #4: Do deep breathing exercises

Try this: breathe in for a count of four. Hold your breath for four more counts. Then breathe out for a count of six. Do this five times.

If you’re feeling calmer, it’s not your imagination. A research review in frontiers in human neuroscience suggests breathwork like this can have a significant effect on your nervous system and psychological status.

Those researchers noted that slow breathing can increase feelings of relaxation while also making you more alert. This type of exercise is particularly potent when you’re feeling stressed, angry or anxious.

Press play to try a mindful breathing exercise with silversneakers live instructor shannon thigpen: click here

Instant mood lifter #5: reach for a different kind of comfort food

Many of us turn to food for a mood boost. But so-called “comfort foods” might be having the opposite effect in the long term, says stephen perrine, coauthor of the whole body reset.

For example, some studies have found that eating more refined carbs and sugar is linked to depression and mood disorders, according to a 2020 analysis in bmj. On the other hand, diets high in fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes and fatty fish may improve your mood.

Not sure where to start? Perrine recommends filling up on magnesium-rich foods. Magnesium is a mineral that plays a key role in brain function and mood. Leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, almonds, peanut butter and legumes are good sources.

Instant mood lifter #6: turn on your favorite tunes

There’s a reason you tend to feel better when you listen to your favorite music: it changes the chemistry in your brain, according to research published in frontiers in psychology.

This sweeping review of studies found that listening to music:

Increases oxytocin — the hormone linked to warm-and-fuzzy feelings that also has been shown to help lower stress and anxiety

Decreases cortisol — aka the “stress hormone” because one of its jobs is to regulate the body’s stress response

Lowers blood pressure — stress contributes to risk factors associated with high blood pressure, notes the american heart association

All of that leads to serious relief from stress and anxiety.

Instant mood lifter #7: take a bath

Do the clichés about soaking away stress really ring true? Absolutely!

In one small japanese study, for example, participants were asked to take 10-minute baths every day for two weeks, followed by two weeks of daily showers. Along the way, their levels of stress, anxiety, fatigue, and feelings of “dejection-depression” were closely monitored.

The result? At the end of the study, bathing was determined to be more beneficial to participants’ state of mind. There were even noted physical benefits, too.

A nice, hot bath increases blood flow, supplying more oxygen to your organs — including your brain. That can help relieve fatigue, stress, and pain. Use your time in the tub to meditate or practice breathing exercises for even more mood-boosting power.

The bottom line: keep in mind that these are all meant to be mood boosters when you’re feeling lackluster. If you’re experiencing frequent or chronic bouts of anxiety, depression, or other mental health struggles, dr. Kaiser suggests talking to your doctor about what’s going on.

Mental health problems are treatable — the first step is starting the conversation with your doctor or other trusted health care professional.


From our archives: Tips for staying healthy through the holidays!

  1. Trick the chef: Chew gum while cooking to avoid nibbling(many) calories while preparing food. Tasting for taste is one thing but eating half of the cookie dough before they hit the oven is another story!
  2. Rally the troops: Go for a walk with your aunts. Invite your cousin to the gym with you, or join the kids for a snowball fight. Being active with family and friends is the best way to stay active and have quality time too.
  3. Party Patrol: Enjoy the people at the party and don’t linger by the food table. Ladies, carry a clutch-size purse or guys, carry your cell phone in one hand, which leaves just one hand available for that champagne glass.
    Free hands + Buffet = Holiday Scarf-down.
  4. Snack smartly: Snacking is good but not when it’s candy canes, red and green M & Ms and sugar cookies. Eat high-protein snacks like nuts, Greek yogurt and fruit, or an apple with peanut butter, 2-3 hours before a party or family dinner to avoid overeating later on.
  5. Drink to excess: Guzzle lots and lots of water before each meal and you’ll consume 75-90 fewer calories and stay hydrated too. Research shows that those who drank 2 cups of water before each meal lost an average of 4.5 pounds over those who didn’t.
  6. Be prepared: Traveling for the holidays? Pack your sneakers, a resistance band and a jump rope and you’ve got all you need for a full-body workout. Go for a morning run and do a quick circuit. If it’s too cold, hit the local gym.

Remember, it really is just about moderation. Enjoy your holidays! We’ll worry about the resolutions in January!


While there’s evidence that alcohol consumption increased during the pandemic, people are now looking to bring their drinking down a notch — or stop drinking altogether. One beverage industry analysis published in 2022 found that drinking alcohol is on the decline, with millennials and high-income consumers slashing their alcohol bills the most.

Whether you decide to cut back on or give up alcohol to benefit your wallet, your health, or any other reason, you have plenty of beverage options besides plain water.

The Health Benefits of Taking a Break From Drinking Alcohol

There’s scientific proof that pressing pause on alcohol (or avoiding it forever more) can help you look and feel better. A study published in July 2022 in the journal Molecular Psychiatry shows that alcohol may accelerate biological aging. Another study, published in July 2022 in the journal The Lancet, found that people under 40 should avoid alcohol because of the risks that come along with drinking (while older people may benefit from an occasional drink, like a glass of red wine).

Booze can interfere with sleep, another vital component of good health. “Alcohol prior to bedtime allows you to fall asleep faster, but your quality of sleep is impaired, so you’ll wake up feeling less well rested than if you didn’t have alcohol or if you had just one drink,” says Christine Palumbo, a registered dietitian nutritionist in private practice in Naperville, Illinois. Research confirms that higher alcohol intake is associated with poorer sleep quality.

Cutting back on alcohol has been shown to help lower your risk for several chronic diseases. “Alcohol increases the risk of several cancers, including colon and breast cancer, per the National Cancer Institute. Even just one drink a day can increase your breast cancer risk,” says Karen Ansel, a registered dietitian nutritionist on Long Island, New York.

“People forget that alcohol is a known carcinogen,” adds Palumbo. One small study published in May 2018 in the journal BMJ Open found that healthy individuals who abstained from alcohol for one month showed improved markers associated with cancer.

The drinking uptick during the COVID-19 pandemic has unfortunately had a big impact on the population’s health. A modeling study published in December 2021 in the journal Hepatology found that a one-year increase in alcohol is estimated to result in about 8,000 additional deaths due to alcohol-associated liver disease.

Going booze-free may also have benefits for your mental health. Nondrinkers tend to rate their well-being highest, suggested a study published in July 2019 in the Canadian Medical Association JournalResearchers also observed that for women, quitting alcohol was associated with better self-reported mental well-being. They didn’t see the same effect for men but concluded that kicking the habit may still be emotionally worthwhile for men. Also, even light drinking (one drink per day) is associated with harm to the brain, including reduced brain volume, per research published in March 2022 in the journal Nature Communications, and the impact on the brain is even bigger if people consume more.

So if you’re considering going on the wagon, you’re in luck. Research published in November 2020 in the journal Psychology and Health supports the perks of foregoing alcohol for a month: Participating in Dry January (when people are encouraged to abstain from alcohol during the month) increased study participants’ well-being and ability to handle stressful situations, and the results were more pronounced for the people who were able to successfully complete the challenge.

Why You Should Consider Trading Your Cocktail for a Mocktail

What’s making it easier than ever to cut back on alcohol is the fact that there are so many alternatives. First, there’s the nonalcoholic craft beer movement, with brands like Al’s, Athletic Brewing Company, Bravus, and Partake gaining huge followings. There are also craft nonalcoholic wines (like Töst and Ariel) and spirits (like Seedlip and Curious Elixirs). More bartenders are having fun creating innovative alcohol-free drinks that aren’t full of sugar and syrups packed with artificial ingredients.

“Mocktails are definitely a wellness trend,” says Palumbo. “So many of us are trying to minimize the toxins in our body, whether that’s with the makeup we put on, the cleaners we use around the house, or the food we eat — so avoiding alcohol is another piece of this low-toxin environment we’re creating.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drinking moderately reduces the risk of alcohol-related issues. The CDC defines “moderate” as no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks per day for men. The 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines define one drink as 5 ounces (oz) of wine, 12 oz of beer, or a cocktail with 1.5 oz of liquor per day.

If you’re looking to limit or eliminate alcohol from your diet for any reason, these 10 tasty mocktail recipes, created by registered dietitians, can be great alternatives.

Move over, Shirley Temple — these healthy nonalcoholic drink recipes are sophisticated, full of flavor, and good for you, too!

For 10 delicious, healthy Mocktail recipes including Sparkling Blood Orange Mocktail, Pomegranate Ginger Sparkler and Green Tea Virgin Sangria, click HERE


Trying to lose weight? Looking for a diet that really works? Hoping for a routine you can actually stick with for the long term? You’re not alone. With so many resources claiming to provide helpful weight loss tips, it can be tough to separate fact from fiction.

Here are some common weight loss myths and facts to dispel them. Remember to consult your doctor before making any major lifestyle or diet changes.

Myth: Eating at night prevents you from losing weight.

Fact: The idea here is that your body won’t have time to burn off any calories you consume right before bed. But what time you eat doesn’t matter nearly as much as what you eat. Your body burns calories 24/7 so eating before bed doesn’t necessarily affect weight loss.

The problem, MIT Medical explains, is that nighttime snacks tend to include unhealthy processed or fast foods that are convenient or satisfy cravings. People who snack before bed also tend to pay less attention to portion control because they eat while watching TV or studying. In these cases, eating before bed can hinder weight loss.

Myth: You can lose weight effectively without exercising if you’re eating right.

Fact: If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you must maintain a balanced routine of healthy eating and exercise. Here’s one of the key facts about weight loss: The only way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you consume. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, that generally involves regular exercise throughout the week, not just eating more veggies.

Myth: The popular diets you see advertised are the best way to lose weight.

Fact: Not only can fad diets do your body more harm than good, there’s also no one-size-fits-all solution to weight loss. The American Academy of Family Physicians warns against participating in quick-fix fad diets because:

  • Losing weight too quickly isn’t healthy and probably won’t last;
  • Many fad diets help you shed excess water weight, but don’t burn fat or help build muscle; and
  • Restrictive food combinations that limit your meal choices don’t always provide the balanced nutrition your body needs to thrive.

The Academy recommends consulting with your doctor to create a customized weight loss plan that takes into consideration things like the types of fats and sugars you’re eating, portion sizes, and ways to stay active.

Myth: Skipping meals will help me lose weight.

Fact: According to NHS England, skipping meals is actually detrimental to your health and fitness because it can result in nutrient deficiencies. It can also lead to more snacking on fatty and sugary foods, which can cause weight gain.

Myth: I can lose weight if I drink more water.

Fact: Water doesn’t make you lose weight. But drinking plenty of water is essential for a healthy body. It can also help you avoid mistaking thirst for hunger.

HEALTHY HOLIDAYS CHALLENGE: FEEL RELAXED IN MINUTES | Jerilyn Covert and Sydney Shaw, SilverSneakers

When you need to reset and find some calm, a few minutes of mindfulness meditation can do the trick — and getting started is easier than you might think.

Here’s a secret SilverSneakers Master Trainer Sharlyn Green is happy to spill: “You can find peace anytime, anywhere.”  No, you don’t need to check into a spa, book a flight to a faraway island, or even hide out in a dark room.   “You can create a calm environment for yourself wherever you are with mindfulness meditation,” Green says. She’s a certified yoga teacher who leads Mindfulness & Meditation (Express) classes on SilverSneakers LIVE.   “Even a short burst of mindfulness meditation in the middle of a busy day can have a huge effect on your well-being,” she adds.  What Is Mindfulness Meditation You’ve heard of mindfulness and of meditation. But chances are the idea of “mindfulness meditation” as a duo may be new to you.  This quick explainer may help:   Mindfulness is a practice, or a mindset, aiming to focus attention on the present. “It’s paying attention to our present moment experiences with openness, curiosity, and a willingness to be with that experience,” says Diana Winston, head of mindfulness education at the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center and author of the Little Book of Being, who’s taught thousands of students, including many seniors    Meditation is a technique that can help you practice mindfulness. Meditation comes in a few different forms. The one that often comes to mind is known as concentrative meditation. It’s where you tune out your surroundings and focus on one thing — your breath or a specific phrase or word — to reach a calm place and a higher state of being.   Mindfulness meditation is a technique that can help you with your mindfulness practice. It draws on simple breathing and thought “exercises” to keep you grounded in the present and help you feel less stressed and more open and aware.  “If you’re anything like most people, you probably spend more time than you should playing back past events in your mind or worrying about the future,” Green says. “Mindfulness meditation is a wonderful way to bring yourself back into the now. It’s a skill that can help you cope with stress.“The best thing about mindfulness meditation,” Green adds, “is that it’s simple and it doesn’t take a lot of time to get the hang of.” That’s why she recommends it for anyone who is just dipping their toes into a mindful practice — and it’s also the type she teaches for SilverSneakers LIVE.  The Health Benefits of Mindfulness MeditationThere are so many benefits to mindfulness that it’s almost hard to narrow it down,” Green says. But here are the highlights. Mindfulness meditation isn’t a medical treatment, but it has been shown to help: 

  • Lower blood pressure 
  • Boost the immune system 
  • Ease and manage chronic pain symptoms associated with arthritis, back pain, and fibromyalgia 
  • Manage symptoms of depression and anxiety  

Researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that just two weeks of meditation training helped individuals stay focused and improve their working memory, while also reducing the occurrence of distracting thoughts.  

Meditation may help you sleep better, too. A UCLA study found that older adults with insomnia who took a six-week mindfulness course reported significant improvement in their quality of sleep.   

And it didn’t take as long as you might think. Their homework started with five minutes of mindfulness practice each day and progressed to 20 minutes daily by week six.  

Research published in the journal Nature even suggests that mindfulness meditation may foster a spirit of cooperation and altruism.  

How does meditation provide all these benefits? It all starts with how you handle stress.   

What Happens in Your Body When You Meditate 

Meditation helps you respond to stress differently, says Emily Lindsay, Ph.D., a University of Pittsburgh psychology expert who’s been researching mindfulness meditation for a decade. It interrupts your body’s “stress response.” The stress response is a cascade of physiological changes that includes heart pounding, quicker breathing, and increased sweating when your body is faced with a challenge.  

“Stress is a brain-centered phenomenon that can be triggered by thoughts, but its effects happen physically in your body,” Green says.  

Over time, repeated activation of this stress response — also known as chronic stress — could lead to high blood pressure and inflammation, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. That can lay the groundwork for cardiovascular problems, reports Harvard Health. 

“Mindfulness offers just the right tools to combat these physical signs,” Green says.  

In people who meditate regularly, stress tends to evoke less of a reaction in the body, Lindsay’s research has found. In one study, participants who practiced 20 minutes of mindfulness daily for two weeks saw lower blood pressure and cortisol levels in response to stress compared with a control group that learned common coping techniques instead.  

(Important caveat: Only those who were taught to approach mindfulness with the right attitude — that is, an attitude of acceptance — saw this benefit, Lindsay notes. More on that in Tip #6, below.) 

Another study coauthored by Lindsay suggests that meditation may combat “glucocorticoid resistance” in older adults who self-reported feelings of loneliness. That’s when the immune cells become less sensitive to cortisol’s anti-inflammatory effects in response to chronic stress.  

When Do the Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation Kick In

We don’t have the data to say, Winston says. “We’ve seen benefits with small increments,” Winston says, but we also know that more is better.

“We like to start people off with five minutes,” she adds. “The students who are practicing even five minutes a day are finding benefits.”

As with any new skillset, consistency is important. It’s crucial to start with a manageable goal, build up slowly, and find what works for you. 

“If you say to meditate for an hour, people will not do it,” Winston notes. “The bar is too high.”

In her six-week class — the same one from that sleep study mentioned earlier — Winston has her students start with five minutes and add time every two weeks. So they progress from five minutes, to 10, to 15, and finally to 20 by the end of the course.

Ready to give meditation a try? All you need is five minutes — and a bit of advice.  

7 Mindfulness Meditation Tips 

1. Try a SilverSneakers LIVE Mindfulness & Meditation Express class This online group class is a great way to try out new mindfulness techniques from the comfort of your couch — but with a trained instructor on hand who can answer questions.  

“Nobody else can see you while you’re in my mindfulness class, so it’s a totally judgment-free zone,” Green says. “You can be in your pajamas, or you can be dressed to the nines. Nobody will know.”  

Members who join Green’s class often tell her about the real-world benefits they get from mindfulness meditation. 

“They’ll say things like, ‘I tried your breathing technique when I went to the dentist and it really helped me calm down,’” Green says. 

Check your eligibility, view the current schedule, and RSVP here.  

2. Designate a spot and a time of day. No, you don’t need a special meditation pillow. Any chair or even your bed will do. But you do want to meditate in the same spot and at the same time every day.

As with any new habit, creating cues like time and place can help it stick, Winston says. “It’ll train your mind that this is where you’re meditating,” she says, “in this particular chair at this time of day.”

Pick a location where you’re not likely to be disturbed, Winston says. And choose whatever time works for you.

“For me, I like to meditate before the day starts because if I don’t I just get into the busy-ness of the day,” says Winston.

Others like to meditate before bed or when they get home from work or after their day’s activities.

3. Sneak meditation into your existing routine. Consider tying meditation to a habit you already do, Winston suggests. For example, every time you make your morning cup of coffee, meditate for five minutes.  

Again, consistency and repetition are key. Tying meditation to a habit you already have will help remind you to do it each day. 

Recommended reading: 6-Day Mindfulness Challenge 

4. Get comfortable. There’s no rule about sitting cross-legged to meditate. You can also sit in a chair with your feet on the floor or even lie down.  Pick whatever position is comfortable for you and makes you feel supported, Winston says. 

5. Tune into your breath. Mindfulness is about focusing on your present experience. That could be just about anything — sounds that are happening around you, physical sensations, or emotions. A common starting place is to zero in on your breath.

“It’s something that’s always there to observe, so it can help you get the hang of focusing on the present,” Lindsay says.

Focus on wherever you feel your breath the strongest, says Winston. That could be the rise and fall of your chest, the expanding and contracting of your stomach, or the sensation of breath through your nose.

One mindfulness meditation breathing exercise that is good for beginners is called Box Breathing: 

  • Breathe in slowly for four counts 
  • Hold your breath for four counts 
  • Breathe out slowly for four counts 
  • Hold your breath for four counts 
  • Repeat the sequence as many times as you’d like 

6. Approach mindfulness meditation with openness and curiosity. Remember that attitude piece that Lindsay talked about earlier? According to her research, that part is really important — and really hard.

We humans are wired for mind-wandering, Winston says — it helps us scan for threats, plan for the future, and remember the past. “It’s a survival tactic,” she says.

When you’re meditating and being instructed not to do that, it can feel like a struggle. “Early on in mindfulness training, people report feeling frustrated and aggravated,” Lindsay says. “But once you learn that attitude of acceptance and equanimity, you’re not fighting yourself so hard. You’re being kind to yourself.”

7. Download an app. Mindfulness meditation apps are another useful tool to help you begin a mindfulness practice. Headspace and Calm are two of the most well-known. Others include Ten Percent Happier and Brightmind Meditation. UCLA has its own app, called UCLA Mindful, guided by Winston and her fellow instructors.  

Whichever app you choose, start with the free version and see how you respond to it, Winston says. It’s important that you connect with it and that you like the instructor’s voice. If you don’t like the instructor’s voice, choose a different instructor — or a different app.  

The JCC offers a full slate of SilverSneakers classes! View our in-person class schedules for Squirrel Hill and South Hills HERE


During the next few weeks, it’s estimated that a record number of people in the United States will travel for the holidays. For some, it’s a festive homecoming. For others, it’s a source of familial tension.

But one nearly universal part of the experience is not enough exercise and too many calories.

“All year round, we have pressure from media and society to ‘look good’ and everybody wants to lose those last five to 10 pounds,” Sharon Zarabi, RD, CDN, CPT, bariatric program director at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told Healthline. “And what typically happens during the Thanksgiving-to-New Year’s time frame is that we actually, on average, gain five pounds.”

It can be a challenge to keep up your usual exercise routine when you don’t have access to your local gym or personal exercise equipment.

But with a little bit of ingenuity, it is possible to fit an exercise routine into the busy holiday season.

Walk or Run For those who don’t have access to a cardio machine over the holidays, the solution is straightforward. Do your cardio routine the old-fashioned way and go outside for a walk or run. “If you’re traveling somewhere where it’s warm and you can go outside to walk or jog or anything like that, it’s a nice option,” D.R. Ebner, PT, SCS, a physical therapist at The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, told Healthline.

Even if it’s chilly outside, bundling up and going for a brisk stroll is a good way to walk off that rich Christmas dinner and take in the lights while shedding some calories in the process.

A 20-minute walk can cover about a mile, which can burn off about 100 calories, depending on a person’s sex and weight.

Resistance Bands It’s tough to take a weight training routine on the road. It just isn’t practical to pack bulky, heavy dumbbells into your luggage and there’s no guarantee that your holiday destination will have alternatives.

Resistance bands may not be able to provide the same heavy lifting workout as dumbbells, but they do offer something similar in a lightweight form that can fit into the palm of your hand.

“The easiest thing that anyone can do, as most research has shown, is resistance training, which helps increase metabolic rate,” said Zarabi. “It doesn’t mean you need to go to a gym and use a machine or lift dumbbells. Resistance bands, which are easily portable, are something you can throw in your luggage. They come in different colors for different intensity levels.”

Create a Stop-Gap Program

Anyone who has a daily fitness routine knows that traveling can throw things into chaos. Rather than struggling to replicate your current program, or haphazardly fit workouts into your day, Ebner says it’s helpful to establish a new routine for the days you’re away from home. This might entail doing exercises you don’t usually do or adapting to your surroundings.

“You may not have a ton of space,” he said. “But you can do workouts like pushups, jumping jacks, and situps.”

“You can do, for instance, 10 pushups, and then some bodyweight squats and some lunges,” Ebner noted. “You can repeat that two or three times and commit 10 or 15 minutes to it. Work hard, but keep it sustainable.”

Look Online To add to his point of adapting to different surroundings, Ebner suggests going online to look for inspiration. “On YouTube, there are all kinds of workout videos — anything from yoga to calisthenics,” he said.

“If you’re trying to fit an exercise in and you’re not sure what to do, you can find guided routines where it’s all spelled out for you and you can follow along,” he added. “You don’t have to overthink it.”

 Don’t Sweat It Even if there’s enough space and equipment to work out, sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day when you factor in the social commitments of the holiday season. Zarabi says it’s good to approach the season with a goal not of losing weight, but maintaining your current weight.This strategy even allows for some indulgences, provided they’re reasonable. “I always like to enforce the 80/20 rule: be good 80 percent of the time and enjoy the desserts and holiday treats 20 percent of the time,” she explained. “Indulging at holiday parties is not enough to derail you from your lifestyle. It’s the accumulation of what you do over the long term that really impacts your weight loss efforts.”

Following the indulgent, or over-indulgent festive season, many of us make New Year’s resolutions in an effort to improve things moving forward.

Instead of setting lofty goals for the new year, Zarabi suggests a more measured approach.

“If your resolution is better health, don’t make it about the number on the scale,” she said. “A lot of us judge ourselves by a size or weight, disregarding the fact that we can fluctuate 5 to 7 pounds after a dinner party. It’s best to weigh yourself first thing in the morning at a dry weight and try not to obsess over the marker.”

“I think that people need to be a little more forgiving of themselves and just get back to the basics the next day, instead of waiting for the magic to happen on New Year’s Day,” she added.


Thanksgiving and the December holidays can be a bit of a challenge for health conscious individuals. All that good food and drink can add up and before you know it, you have consumed well over a day’s worth of calories in just one meal.

To be honest, a once-per-year day of overeating isn’t likely to sabotage your diet plans, although sustaining this eating behavior throughout the Holiday season might lead to a few extra pounds to lose in the New Year. The good news is that there are some simple changes you can make to your Thanksgiving plans that will save you some calories (without sacrificing taste or your reputation) and add some fun to your holiday.

  1. Fit it all on one plate: Sample small portions and avoid going back for seconds. If you’re tempted to return for more, wait for 20 minutes (about how long it takes to feel full) first.
  2. Eat slowly: Thanksgiving foods are likely to be richer and more filling than your everyday fare, so eat slowly and savor every bite.
  3. Enjoy the company of family and friends: Socialize during the meal and festivities. You can’t eat and talk at the same time so the more conversation you enjoy, the less you’ll eat.
  4. Get moving: Sign up for a local Turkey trot 5K or 10K and spend Thanksgiving morning getting some exercise. So get moving and remember: No pain, no pie!
  5. Make some Turkey day substitutes:
    Eat the white meat without the skin instead of dark meat and shave off 190 calories
    Make your own cranberries rather than the jellied stuff and save 120 calories
    Cut the marshmallows on your sweet potatoes and save 100 calories
    Skip the green bean casserole and cut 130 calories
    Choose pumpkin pie instead of pecan and save 180 calories

8 HEALTHY EATING RULES YOU SHOULD IGNORE | Christine Byrne, SilverSneakers

Registered dietitians reveal the popular advice they never follow—and why you shouldn’t either.

There’s no shortage of nutrition advice available on the internet. And that’s not always a good thing.

On the one hand, you have quick access to high-quality resources from the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They’re incredibly valuable when you have questions.

On the other hand, you have Google, which is where most people go first when searching for answers. This is not always a problem, but the results page is usually a mixed bag, including both truly useful, science-backed information and some subpar sources with little or no real evidence behind their claims.

How do you separate fact from fiction? Always consider the source. Look for nutrition information that’s written by or sourced from registered dietitians, doctors, or trusted organizations like the ones mentioned above. A website that ends in .org, .gov, or .edu is a good sign you’re in the safe zone.

Still, even with due diligence, it’s inevitable you’ll encounter some questionable advice that doesn’t make sense for you or your lifestyle. If you have a chronic condition or are recovering from a serious illness or injury, it’s vital to get personalized nutrition guidance from your doctor or registered dietitian. Good nutrition can help you minimize symptoms or recover faster.

If you’re generally healthy, it’s still a good idea to talk about your diet when you see your doctor for checkups.

In the meantime, we asked experienced registered dietitians to set the record straight on eight nutrition “rules” they never follow. Here’s why you may want to ignore this advice as well.

Ignore This: Cut All Sugar from Your Diet “While most people can benefit from reducing their sugar intake, going completely sugar-free isn’t necessary,” says Nazima Qureshi, M.P.H., R.D., a Toronto-based dietitian.

“When someone goes totally sugar-free, they often skip out on fruits too, which deprives them of key nutrients,” she says. Naturally occurring sugars in fruits, vegetables, dairy, starch, and other carb sources are an important part of a balanced diet.

Even completely cutting out added sugars—from sweetened foods like dessert, flavored yogurt, and other packaged food—isn’t always a good idea. It’s true these foods shouldn’t make up the majority of your diet, but they’re fine in moderation, Qureshi says.

“Extreme restriction of any food is likely going to make you think about it all day,” she says. “Instead, enjoy sugar from natural sources such as fruit most of the time, then enjoy that once-in-a-while slice of cake or whatever treat you prefer without guilt.”

Ignore This: Count Calories Counting calories isn’t always a bad idea, but “when someone is calorie counting, they often forget to consider the rest of the macronutrient distribution—carbohydrates, fat, and protein,” Qureshi says.

That’s a problem, since the number of calories in any given food doesn’t represent how nutrient-dense it is, she says. “This often results in selecting food options that are low-cal but may not be  very nutritious.”

For example, avocado is relatively high-calorie (about 320 calories in one avocado, or about 80 calories in ¼ avocado), but it packs healthy monounsaturated fats and many essential vitamins and minerals. A fat-free cookie, on the other hand, might be low in calories, but it’s also lacking nutrients, fat, and fiber, meaning it won’t be nearly as satisfying.

The bottom line: “You can eat healthy without knowing the exact number of calories in every single meal,” Qureshi says. For overall good health, focus on what you’re eating and keeping portions in check.

If you’re not sure what to eat, check out the new food pyramid for older adults. Hint: Aim to fill half your plate at every meal with fruits and vegetables, then add some whole grains, lean protein, and a little dairy.

Ignore This: Only Shop the Perimeter of the Grocery Store “You can find highly nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, and fish around the perimeter of the grocery store, but that doesn’t mean you should completely avoid the center aisles,” says Stephanie McKercher, R.D.N., a Denver-based dietitian and blogger at Grateful Grazer.

The interior aisles are filled with healthy staples like beans, whole grains, spices, nuts, and canned tomatoes, which are just as important as fresh protein and produce.

“Even convenience foods like low-sodium canned soups, protein bars, crackers, and granola can easily fit into an overall healthy lifestyle,” McKercher says. “I look for foods made with primarily whole food ingredients, and I also opt for brands that are local to my area whenever possible.”

Ignore This: Too Much Protein Is Bad for Your Kidneys Unless you have kidney disease or another condition that affects your kidneys, this likely isn’t a concern. Among other things, “protein helps with retaining muscle, keeping us feeling full, and fat loss,” says Erik Bustillo, R.D., a dietitian in Miami.

Adequate protein is even more important for older adults, since muscle mass gradually decreases with age. Plus, you don’t absorb or metabolize amino acids—the building blocks of protein—as efficiently as you did when you were younger, so consuming more protein can help make up for that inefficiency.

Exactly how much protein you need depends on your height, weight, activity level, and any health conditions you have, but it’s likely more than you’re eating right now. In fact, many experts believe that to maintain muscle mass and proper functioning, older adults need to eat double the amount of protein they needed in their younger years, says Abby Sauer, M.P.H., R.D., a dietitian specializing in adult and geriatric nutrition. That’s right, double!

That translates to about 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. What else to keep in mind: Getting more protein doesn’t mean loading up on red meat. Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are terrific plant-based sources of protein.

Ignore This: Low-Carb, High-Fat Diets Are the Key to Weight Loss This is really two myths rolled into one. First, the belief that carbs make you fat is totally untrue. Carbs can cause weight gain, but only if you’re consuming so many that you eat more calories than you need every day, Bustillo says. “That’s true of any food—it’s not unique to carbs.”

For the second myth, just as there’s nothing uniquely bad about carbs, there’s nothing magic about eating primarily fats. While a low-carb, high-fat diet like the trendy ketogenic diet can be done in a healthy way, it’s not inherently healthy, Bustillo explains.

“We need to consume fats, including saturated fats, but not in excess,” he says.

While some research shows the ketogenic diet may be helpful in managing certain conditions, such as epilepsy, it’s not far better for weight loss. Successful weight loss comes from consistently eating fewer calories than you burn, not from cutting out entire food groups, Bustillo says.

If you think the ketogenic diet—or any other diet—might make sense for you, the first step is to talk to your doctor. He or she can help determine the best plan based on your unique health status and goals.

Ignore This: Eating Soy Messes with Your Hormones “Soybeans are the primary ingredient in tofu, tempeh, soy milk, and miso,” McKercher explains. There are many misconceptions around soy, including that it causes feminizing effects in men, but a strong body of scientific research debunks such claims, she says.

Soy gets a bad rap because it contains plant estrogens, also called phytoestrogens. “These are different than human estrogens and seem to have neutral or beneficial effects on our health,” McKercher says.

Fermented soy products, such as tempeh and miso, also contain probiotics which can promote healthy digestion. “So in addition to being a good plant-based protein source, fermented soy is a great option for vegans or anyone who isn’t getting enough gut-healthy bacteria from dairy products,” she says.

Just be sure to look for whole soy products: tofu, edamame, and fermented products. And stay away from heavily processed proteins and soy products—just like you would other heavily processed items.

Ignore This: You Should Reduce Your Dairy Intake If milk, yogurt, and other dairy products upset your stomach or you just don’t enjoy them, go ahead and cut back. But don’t do it simply because you think you should.

“As long as no allergy is present, dairy can definitely be part of a healthy diet,” Bustillo says. Dairy is often a good source of protein and calcium, which is a great combination for preventing muscle and bone loss in older adults.

Bone health isn’t the only thing calcium is good for—it impacts your overall well-being. If you aren’t getting enough, it can affect your sleep and mood, which can negatively impact your ability to exercise, maintain a healthy blood pressure, and stay social.

Ignore This: All Supplements Are Bad Supplements have a bad reputation for good reason: They’re not regulated in the same way as prescription and over-the-counter medications.

This means many of the products on the market don’t actually do what they claim to do. In fact, they may not even contain the levels of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients listed on their packaging.

But this doesn’t mean you should write off supplements altogether, Bustillo says. “If anything, they can help prevent deficiencies.”

Even if you eat an overall healthy diet, you might be low in certain nutrients, especially as you get older. Before taking any supplements, talk to your doctor about your current diet, health, lifestyle, and all the medications you take.

5 Reasons That Swimming Needs to Be Part of Your Training Plan

A good workout includes aerobic exercise, strength training, and stretches. If you’re not feeling this balance in the gym or on your regular runs, it may be time to take the plunge and add swimming to your workout.

Though swimming is primarily a cardio exercise, it’s also a great exercise in strength. Water provides great resistance for your body, whether you’re swimming laps or doing some dynamic stretches to loosen up your joints.

But if that isn’t enough to fully convince you, here are five further reasons that swimming needs to be part of your training plan.

5 Epic Benefits of Adding Swimming to Your Training Plan

1. Swimming Strengthens Your Core

Maintaining core strength throughout your life is critical. Not only does a strong core help prevent injury and protect your vital organs, but it also stabilizes your body, enabling you to move freely and flexibly.

According to swim coach and personal trainer Kay Lynne Firsching, swimming is one of the best core exercises you can do because the strokes themselves demand a streamlined position in the water.

Related: 2 Epic Reasons Why Cold-Water Therapy Is So Damn Good for You

“Balance is necessary while you rotate in front crawl (freestyle) and backstroke, and when you undulate in butterfly and breaststroke,” Firsching explains. “And core stabilization is important because swimming is an open-chain activity, meaning that both your hands and feet are free to move.”

2. It’s a Full-Body Workout

The more you swim and improve your stroke, the more you’ll strengthen your core. And not only that, but as you power up your core, you’ll also recruit muscles in your legs, arms, and upper body.

“Swimming is a total-body exercise,” Firsching, who is also a record-holding weight lifter, says. “All of your major muscle groups have to work together to move your body in the pool.”

So whether you’re gliding through the water on a gentle breaststroke or going full throttle with your freestyle, you’re activating muscle groups across the upper and lower body and keeping your core engaged. This enables you to generate more power while you’re swimming (as well as when you’re on land), burn calories, and tone your body all at the same time.

3. Swimming Boosts Your Breath and Overall Lung Health

A pool workout combines strength training with great cardio conditioning because when your heart’s doing some heavy lifting, your lungs will pitch in to help.

However, while regular training will cause your cardio-pulmonary system to become more adept, swimming can actually expand overall lung size according to some studies. As a result, lung capacity and the organs’ overall health also increase.

One of the main reasons behind this has to do with a swimmer’s need to control their breathing in a way that athletes performing other forms of aerobic exercise don’t. Sure, serious runners and cyclists must manage their breathing while training or competing in an event, but breathable air is all around them. Swimmers, on the other hand, have to time their breaths with their strokes so that they can take in air at specific moments.

Related: Spartan Games 2.0, Ep. 2: DEKA HEAVY and Air Force PAST Leaderboards

Sometimes, that next breath just isn’t available. That means swimmers’ bodies have to learn to wait a little longer than usual for their next intake of oxygen, which — over time — has been proven to increase the size of the lungs (and, therefore, their capacity).

Of course, the larger the lungs, the more oxygen they can hold and send to the muscles, keeping you powering down that pool longer.

4. Swimming Relieves Stress

Learning to control your breath can help in managing stress, too. Scientific studies have revealed major improvements in well-being and reduced anxiety through deliberate breathing exercises. But aside from the breath conditioning that swimming supports, the activity itself has been shown to help manage stress and stress-related symptoms.

In a 2012 global survey of nearly 1,200 swimmers aged 16 to 45, 74% of respondents said swimming helped them release stress and tension. Over two-thirds agreed that swimming has had a positive mental impact, while 70% also noted that the activity “helps them feel mentally refreshed.”

5. Swimming Helps With Recovery

Finally, even if you’re not sure that you want to swap sweating in the gym for swimming in the pool, just tagging a swim to the end of training can bring you so many benefits.

“Try swimming for 10-15 minutes after a hard workout,” Firsching suggests. “Your recovery will be so much better.”

Swimming is a low-impact way to provide active stretching, a crucial part of recovery. Not only that, but it cools down a heated body, which — in turn — stamps out that feeling of fatigue after training and leaves you energized instead.

Related: 6 Ways Infrared Sauna Use Optimizes Health, Training, and Recovery

If you don’t feel confident in the water, though, Firsching recommends getting a good swim coach to look at your strokes. With over 35 years of coaching under her belt, she knows how important a coach can be to keep you motivated and improving.

“Swimming really is one of those activities that has so many benefits to offer serious athletes,” she says.

Read more/Source: Benefits of Swimming: How It Elevates Your Training | Spartan Race


Mental health: What’s normal, what’s not

What’s the difference between normal mental health and mental disorders? Sometimes the answer is clear, but often the distinction isn’t so obvious. For example, if you’re afraid of giving a speech in public, does it mean you have a mental health disorder or a run-of-the-mill case of nerves? Or, when does shyness become a case of social phobia?

Here’s help understanding how mental health conditions are identified.

What is mental health?

Mental health is the overall wellness of how you think, regulate your feelings and behave. Sometimes people experience a significant disturbance in this mental functioning. A mental disorder may be present when patterns or changes in thinking, feeling or behaving cause distress or disrupt a person’s ability to function. A mental health disorder may affect how well you:

  • Maintain personal or family relationships
  • Function in social settings
  • Perform at work or school
  • Learn at a level expected for your age and intelligence
  • Participate in other important activities

Cultural norms and social expectations also play a role in defining mental health disorders. There is no standard measure across cultures to determine whether a behavior is normal or when it becomes disruptive. What might be normal in one society may be a cause for concern in another. Read more from the Mayo Clinic here.

6 Steps to Getting Healthy and Fit in Your 60s, 70s, and Beyond | Nancy Fitzgerald, SilverSneakers

Even if you’ve been a couch potato for decades, now is the perfect time to get up, get moving, and get fit. Here’s why—and how.Looking for a fountain of youth? Just look for your sneakers. Then lace them up and get moving.Exercise can turn back the clock, jumpstart your energy, and restore your health.That’s the message we heard over and over when we asked the SilverSneakers Facebook community for a dose of fitness inspiration. Some said they didn’t start exercising until they were well into their 60s, but a desire to thrive in their retirement years sparked their interest.Others fell out of the fitness habit during the hustle and bustle of raising families and building careers in midlife. Often, a health scare is what lit the fire to move more.Whatever the reason, this group is clearly on to something. Physical activity is key to a happier, healthier life for older adults, according to 2020 research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. It helps protect against some of the biggest health problems older adults face: heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and falls. It also wards off depression and dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.As for that fountain of youth? Getting at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week has been linked to a 20 percent lower risk of early death from any cause, according to a 2022 report from the American Heart Association.But even small amounts of activity — five to 10 minutes, if that’s what you can manage — can help your health. In other words, exercise won’t make you live forever, but it could help you live longer and better.Here, SilverSneakers community members share the steps they’ve taken to prioritize their fitness, no matter how many birthdays they’ve celebrated.Step #1: Start Small Maybe you haven’t played sports since high school, or maybe you’ve never exercised before. That’s okay. Starting small is good, and just starting is even better.Just ask Lori H., who started SilverSneakers classes after she retired at 68. Now in her mid-70s, she says, “I am in the best shape of my life. I can do over 12 pushups from the floor and hold the plank for 90 seconds. My clothes fit better, and I have the energy now to hike in North Carolina with my husband.”Lori finds inspiration among her fellow exercisers. She points out, “There are ladies in my class who are in their late 80s and two who are 90.”Step #2: Find a Workout Partner Ideally, recruit someone around your own age. Seniors stick to their fitness routines best when they work out together, science says.In fact, older adults who participated in a fitness program with others in their age group were three times more likely to come to exercise classes, according to researchers from the University of British Columbia.That’s the kind of camaraderie that keeps Linda J. showing up for workouts.“I started in my 60s after being diagnosed with diabetes,” she says. “I go to a senior center, and I love the group — I wouldn’t do it at home on my own!”Step #3: Ignore Your Excuses It may be great to have a friend to exercise with, but if you’re on your own, don’t be nervous. Take a deep breath and do it anyway.“Don’t wait for your spouse or buddy to get started,” says Susan S., who started yoga at 60 and SilverSneakers classes at 67.“If I had waited for those folks, I’d still be waiting — and 22 pounds heavier,” she says. “You have to be your own advocate and care about yourself and your well-being. You deserve to feel good!”Plus, you never know — you could meet your new best friend. “I’ve met some wonderful, interesting, fun folks,” Susan says.And those new friends come with health benefits. Social isolation is comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes per day, according to Brigham Young University researchers. Maintaining strong relationships can improve your health and quality of life.Step #4: Embrace New Experiences In her 60s, Bunny D. was an exercise newbie. “I’d never been active,” she says. “But I moved in to take care of my mom, and I need to be strong to care for her.”Bunny started with a SilverSneakers water aerobics class and soon added walking. Things really took off from there.She’s even walked-jogged two 5Ks, she says. In one race, she finished first in her age group. And in the other, second.Your body isn’t the only thing that will benefit from new challenges. Learning and trying new things keeps the brain healthy and cuts your risk of dementia.Step #5: Make It a Habit Robin H. was always active — bicycling, gardening, riding horses — but she never went to the gym. That changed after surviving cancer and recovering from a heart attack in her early 60s.“I turned into a gym rat,” she says. At first, her workout schedule was tough. “But it became the backbone of my life. It gave my life order, purpose, and a challenge.”Now in her 70s, Robin exercises three to four times a week. “What keeps me going is how good I feel physically and how much I enjoy the accomplishment. Exercise is a part of my life now, and I feel privileged every time I go to the gym.”Step #6: Start Again If You Need To If you grew up very active but put exercise on the back burner in your 30s or 40s because “life got in the way and work took too much time,” Susan B. understands completely.“The next thing I knew, I was 59 and had a double mastectomy,” she recalls. “I was so depressed. I was using a cane, was very overweight, and wouldn’t look at myself in the mirror.”But Susan’s story doesn’t end there. “I realized I was not going to live long the way I was going,” she says.She joined a senior activity center. “I met so many people like me. We encourage each other and support each other,” she says.By her late 60s, Susan was walking a couple of miles at a time without a cane. She also goes to a chair yoga class three days a week, and has learned to use fitness equipment at her gym. She’s even taking fewer pain medications.More than that, she has a positive outlook on life. “I’m happier, and I know I have many more happy days to come.”Her top tip? “Get up and tell yourself you are worth it — then go have fun!”

The JCC offers a full slate of SilverSneakers classes! View our in-person class schedules for Squirrel Hill and South Hills HERE

HOW TO START WORKING OUT | Cathy Spencer Browning, MOSSA

“I’m just asking for a friend,” said the woman sitting next to me on a recent flight back to Atlanta. “How does someone get started with exercise?”

Like many fitness professionals, I have been asked this question a gazillion times. My response is a mix of science, but also, simply, years of observation. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all way to start exercising, but there are a few great options out there (of course, I am biased to our options). In contrast, there are some popular workouts that aren’t beginner-friendly, so much of my advice is reverse engineering the many things I have seen people do, let’s just say, unsuccessfully.

I like to borrow from the author of Good to Great, Jim Collins’ metaphor of the gigantic flywheel. Imagine that making exercise a habit is like pushing this massive flywheel. At first, we push with a tremendous amount of effort, and it moves imperceptibly at first. You stay consistent and finally the flywheel does one full revolution. But then, with persistent effort, the flywheel slowly builds speed and momentum and turns again. As Collins says, “then at some point – breakthrough! The momentum of the thing kicks in your favor…its own heavy weight working for you.” This is the moment when exercising finally becomes a habit.

But let’s go back to the beginning and answer her question on how to start a workout routine. Here are 10 things that I believe are incredibly helpful getting the physical flywheel turning!

1. Know Your Why

Having a compelling reason why you want to start working out is crucial for long term success. Is it to live longer, to be more active, to easily play with your children, to feel better in your body, to manage stress better, to sleep better? And it’s okay if “I want to look better” makes your list. Define your reasons why you want to start exercising, make them compelling, own them, marinate in them. When times get tough, and your ‘motivation muscle’ is waning, you’ll be able to fall back on your why to set you back in motion!

2. Set an Implementation Intention

In James Clear’s remarkable book, Atomic Habits – a highly suggested read by the way – he highlights the importance of Implementation Intention when it comes to creating habits. This means that you plan beforehand when, where, and how you are going to accomplish something. We’re early in our list, so you may not yet know the when, where, and how you’ll get started working out, but leave space near your why, and come back to clearly state when, where, and how you’ll start exercising.

3. Don’t Miss Monday

In psychological science there is a phenomenon called the fresh start effect, which shows that people are more likely to follow through on their goal setting on more meaningful dates, such as the start of a new week or financial quarter, a birthday, or a holiday. This explains why so many people commit to working out and getting in better shape each new year. These “temporal landmarks” encourage us to step back and evaluate our current situation. And when we do this, we gain the stimulus to move forward and be better, we become more driven and productive, and we overcome the lack of motivation to work out.

4. Make It Easy

Another one of James Clear’s tips on habit formation is to make it easy for yourself. It’s all about removing barriers.

Here are a few ideas to consider:

If you are new to working out, or re-starting after time away, start small. Doing too much too soon usually results in too many negative physical sensations and/or a sense of overwhelm, which is a recipe for dropout. Choose accessible, easy beginner exercises, like the MOSSA On Demand 10-minute workouts, which are a great place to begin creating a movement habit. These beginner-friendly workouts are not physically overwhelming; they teach us to walk before we run.

Schedule your workout plan appropriately. Ask yourself – seriously – when would you be most likely to do it? It is of no use to force yourself to get up early in the morning if you are not a great morning person, because the cost to your motivation muscle is just too high.

Another idea: pre-plan your gear. What I mean is, if you plan to go to the gym, set out your clothes, shoes, and water bottle well in advance. And if you’re working out at home, have a place where your equipment is left out and ready to go. If your equipment is there, you’ve removed the “Do I have to set up before each workout?” excuse. Or, if you can’t leave it out around the clock, at least set it up the night before.

My trick, when I know I am working from home for the day, and I know I will be working out at home, is that when I get dressed in the morning, I just get dressed in my workout gear. This sets my intention of working out during my scheduled time slot.

5. Make It Satisfying

James Clear tells the story of giving toothpaste a minty taste to make teeth brushing satisfying. We are so used to the refreshing flavor when brushing our teeth, it seems weird to think that at some point it wasn’t minty.

When it comes to movement, we at MOSSA have done everything we can to make exercise more palatable. One of the ways is through the driving force behind our group fitness workouts: the music. Music has been scientifically proven to improve performance. It can also enhance our mood and delay feelings of fatigue.

That’s why we recommend that our partner facilities invest in great sound systems, to create an inspiring and immersive musical environment. At home, you don’t need a massive SONOS or BOSE sound system, but there are a lot of portable speakers that can provide an environment that moves you both literally and figuratively.

We also know for sure that the right equipment makes a huge difference. A step, an adjustable barbell, the ViPR PRO, a proper indoor bike…these are all designed for comfort, ease of use, and better results. When the equipment is quality, it means you get a quality workout – and a quality workout is a lot more satisfying! As many a wise person has said, “Your health is an investment, not an expense.”

6. Track It

Research has shown that, when people start working out, those who track their habits are more successful at reaching health and fitness goals, versus those who don’t. I am not talking about tracking metrics like calories, steps, heart rate, etc. Those things are a different beast. The tracking I am talking about is a simple question: did you move today? Yes or no. The process of habit tracking, whether you write it down, express it to a family member, or check it off your to-do list, helps to create self-awareness and accountability and can be a strong motivator as you see progress. It might take a little getting used to, and trial and error to find your own best method, but it will make a difference in creating a healthy exercise habit.

If you need help with a workout plan – something you can track and boxes you can check off – sign up to receive our free monthly MOSSA calendars. We created them as a super simple way to track your movement each week, either 3, 4 or 5 times per week.

7. Change Your Self-Talk

Ok. Bear with me as I throw a little psychology your way. The way we talk to ourselves can have both a positive and negative effect on our health. While more research needs to be done, it has been shown that positive self-talk, or optimism, can have many health benefits, such as increased life span, lower rates of depression, higher immune function, better wellbeing, and improved cardiovascular health.

Unfortunately – and especially for beginners getting started working out – negative self-talk is common. But sometimes just a subtle shift in approach can make all the difference.

Here are some examples:

Saying, “I HAVE to work out,” makes it sound like a chore. When we say, “I GET to work out,” it is like an amazing privilege that this body we own can do this remarkable thing.

“I can’t do that, I’ve never done it before,” can be replaced by, “I am excited to try something new because, no matter what, I will have challenged my body and brain in a new way.”

“That wasn’t a great workout,” can be replaced by, “Every single time I move, something great is happening to my mind and my body.”

“I’m terrible at this,” can be replaced by, “Every time I am struggling to learn something, I am building a better brain and my body is learning to do something new.” Or one of my favorites is, “If it doesn’t challenge me, then it doesn’t change me.” Or, simply, “I’ll get better at this.”

“I hate doing this movement,” can be replaced by, “This isn’t my favorite movement, so there must be something in this that my body needs.”

8. Block Out the Noise

The fitness industry makes a cacophony when it comes to what’s the best X to achieve Y. I have seen time and time again people getting more caught up in the “perfect” type of exercise, rather than just “exercise” alone. So much so that the information becomes disempowering, rather than empowering.

Case in point, the best exercise for you isn’t HIIT or Pilates, or yoga, or some other “perfect exercise for building a stronger core.” The best exercise for you is the one you will stick with, and the one you can learn to enjoy and turn into a healthy movement habit.

9. Find an Accountability Buddy

Research has shown that publicly committing your goals to someone gives you at least a 65% chance of completing them. However, having a specific accountability partner increases your chance of success to 95%.

Your accountability partner might be a friend, a family member, or anyone who is looking to achieve similar goals. Maybe you can schedule to do the same workout at the same time, or even better, together in person. Or it could be joining a Facebook Group like MOSSA On Demand Fans and Friends – a whole community of accountability partners.

10. Celebrate Small Successes

It’s probably in our nature to focus on the “big goal” and, with exercise, those goals take time. But celebrating the small wins along the way sparks the reward circuits of our brains and releases chemicals that give us a feeling of pride and a happiness factor, making us want to go further towards our next achievement. Small wins could be physical, like getting one more rep done or lifting something heavier in Group Power or feeling more coordinated in 3D30 or finally getting more mobility in the hips during Centergy. The small wins might be psychological, such as having a greater sense of wellbeing, sleeping better, feeling gratitude for simply being able to move, or hitting your weekly movement goal. All these small wins are worth celebrating. Glossing over them, or not paying attention to them can set us up for failure, because those big goals can seem so elusive.

Hopefully some of these small tips can help you start working out, whether your goal is to build muscle, improve your heart health, or simply to get moving and start getting in shape. Take one or two of the ideas for a test drive and reap the rewards of some scientifically proven strategies to help you get moving and keep moving.

MOSSA creates and deliver workouts for the JCC and health clubs worldwide. View our MOSSA Group Exercise class schedule HERE

MAKE A HIGH-PROTEIN SNACK  | Editors of SilverSneakers

Satisfy a craving and power through your day with a snack that nourishes your fitness goals.

When it comes to building — and keeping — muscle mass as you grow older, food is just as important as fitness. Specifically, your protein intake. Thing is, there’s evidence that older adults aren’t eating enough protein to stave off this muscle loss, according to a 2019 report in the Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging. Why? As we get older, we don’t absorb or metabolize protein as well as we did when we were younger, says Sonya Angelone, R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

So how do you make sure you’re getting enough protein?  Angelone encourages every older adult to talk to their health care provider and/or a registered dietitian about their eating habits and nutrition needs. This is especially true if you’re managing a chronic health condition or are trying to lose or gain weight.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a handy online tool to help you calculate your daily needs for protein and other key nutrients. These numbers are based on the Dietary Reference Intakes established by the Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Keep in mind that these numbers are a good baseline. Depending on your activity level and other health needs, you may need more protein. In one American Journal of Physiology—Endocrinology and Metabolism study, older adults between the ages of 52 and 75 improved their muscle health by eating 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. That’s roughly double the RDA.

To save you from doing a lot of math, Angelone recommends spacing out your protein needs throughout the day. Aim to eat 25 to 30 grams of protein at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, she says.

If that seems like too much, include one to two high-protein snacks in your daily meal plan.

One to try:

Almond Pistachio Cocoa Bites 

These snack-size energy bites (shown above) from Amy Gorin, R.D.N., have no added sugar and are made with a few different high-protein ingredients:

  • Almond butter, which has 7 grams of protein per tablespoon
  • Chia seeds, which have 2.3 grams per tablespoon
  • Pistachios, which have 5.72 grams per ounce

You’ll need

  • 1½ cup oats
  • 1 cup almond butter (no sugar added)
  • ⅓ cup chia seeds
  • ¼ cup pistachios, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder, divided

What to do:

  1. In a medium bowl, mix oats, almond butter, chia seeds, pistachios, vanilla extract, and 1 tablespoon cocoa powder with a spoon until well combined.
  2. Roll into 14 balls with your hands, then place on parchment paper in an air-tight container.
  3. Dust with remaining cocoa powder.
  4. Refrigerate or freeze for a few hours or overnight before eating.
  5. Store them in an air-tight container in the freezer or refrigerator for quick, on-the-go snacking.


Focusing on a holistic and evidence-based approach to ‘aging well’ will keep us healthy and independent.

Staying happy, healthy and whole as you age is not just about covering up new wrinkles, adjusting to stiffer joints or trying to prevent a bit of forgetfulness. Maintaining independence as body and mind go through changes — a natural result of aging — is about all that, and more.

Focusing on a holistic and evidence-based approach to “aging well” will keep us healthy and independent, and feeling great longer so we can continue doing the things we love.

We live in an exceptional community here in Pittsburgh that includes many agencies with services dedicated to the aging continuum. AgeWell at the JCC, at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, has a dedicated team that is ready to help you find your unique path to wellness.

AgeWell at the JCC focuses on programming and services for older adults living independently who want to continue that lifestyle for as long as possible.

On site and virtually, AgeWell at the JCC provides fitness, wellness, education and enrichment; these and many activities and dedicated physical spaces facilitate the piece of the puzzle that is so important to the well-being of many older adults: socialization and community. Putting it simply: At the JCC, older adults can work out, hang out, learn new things and enjoy community. For those who live outside the area or are unable to leave home, the JCC’s Virtual Senior Academy is an online way for older adults to connect, learn and laugh together.

Building and maintaining fitness is so important for all of us, especially older adults. The JCC houses comprehensive SilverSneakers and older adult fitness classes and programs at both the Squirrel Hill and South Hills locations. These group fitness classes are designed for older adults and focus on strengthening muscles and increasing range of movement for daily life activities. The bonus: Working out with others can boost motivation and foster a sense of community.

While you are working on strengthening your body, why not learn a new sport? Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the country and is a great exercise for your mind and body. Pickleball is a paddle sport that combines elements of tennis, table tennis and badminton. In addition to being a great workout, learning and playing pickleball is about teamwork and socializing — and it’s a blast.

Not interested in hitting the treadmill and squat rack? Swimming and aquatic fitness are great workouts that are easy on the joints. The JCC in Squirrel Hill and the South Hills both house temperature-controlled pools where individuals can swim laps and join friends for Aqua Aerobics — another win-win.

Another key to aging well is keeping an active mind. In-person and virtual programs are offered on weekdays through AgeWell at the JCC including discussion groups, crafts, interesting speakers and special programming. Even if the weather isn’t great, you can still dive into a world of learning and explore new and interesting classes through the Virtual Senior Academy. VSA participants expand horizons and make new friends through live virtual learning experiences on Zoom. So many topics are offered, including health and wellness, arts and music, book clubs, history, current events and much more. Class facilitators are community members who want to share their knowledge and passion.

Did you know that volunteering in your free time has been proven to be good for your physical and mental health? There is a lot of research that has shown the proven health benefits of sharing your time with others. We have opportunities through our CheckMates program, where volunteers make calls to isolated and homebound seniors weekly to decrease loneliness. Our volunteers report back about the relationships they have formed with their new friends over the phone, and it really does benefit the mental health of both the senior and their caller.

We also have wonderful volunteer opportunities in our J Cafe lunch program in the Squirrel Hill JCC. We offer nutritious and tasty kosher lunches made fresh on site on weekdays for registered participants, but the pillar of the program is our volunteers who make it possible. These volunteers help serve, wipe table and assist seniors as needed. The J Cafe offers both our older adults and volunteers the chance to enjoy each other’s company and socialize over a meal.

Besides the programming and services offered here at the JCC, AgeWell at the JCC is part of AgeWell Pittsburgh, an 18-year-old collaborative program of the Jewish Association on Aging (JAA), Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh (JCC) and Jewish Family & Community Services (JFCS), offering a one-stop resource that links older adults, their family members, friends and caregivers to solutions for issues related to aging to maximize health and independence. Together, we can help you find the right resources that you need when you need them.

Everyone has their “why” for wanting to stay healthy. AgeWell at the JCC would love to help you find your “how” for achieving those goals. Stay happy, healthy and whole!

Sharon Feinman is division director of AgeWell at the JCC. This was published in the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle.


Spartan DEKA is coming to the JCC! On Your Mark Fitness, Pittsburgh’s DEKA affiliate, is opening at the South Hills JCC this fall. Ready…set…


At Spartan, our mission is to positively impact 100 million lives through fitness. DEKA is our answer to provide fitness for ALL levels.

PHILOSOPHY The Greeks were the first on record to gamify and test fitness and the Greek term DEKA means Ten.

With our 10 DEKA Zones, we’re  providing a well rounded functional test for all levels of fitness. Every zone is based on rudimentary movements that don’t require any specific training or education to complete. Think thousands of years ago when it wasn’t called exercise, fitness, or training. It was survival. Lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, kneeling, jumping/stepping/climbing over something, getting down on the ground and standing back up, and three basic forms of transportation – row, ski, & cycle.

The zone sequence and flow is designed to start with basic movements throughout the early zones that when combined target the entire body and then finish with zones 6-10 with the last 5 requiring 100% full body focus for each zone:


Why Should YOU Compete? DEKA events are not just a competition, they are a milestone of your fitness journey. In the same arena, on the same day, using the exact standards, every level of fitness can come together and celebrate fitness.

Having an event on your calendar can be a game changer for your motivation – now you’re not exercising anymore, you’re training with a purpose!

The Benefits of Testing Initial DEKA testing provides a benchmark. Consistent training will improve your fitness level. Periodic testing will provide proof that the time you’ve invested in your training has improved your fitness. Keeping a DEKA re-test/event on the calendar helps to ensure training adherence. No matter what your current fitness level is, you are an athlete who trains with the purpose of becoming a stronger version of yourself every time you get a new DEKA mark.

“Training with purpose before and in between each DEKA Mark test/event provides an opportunity for every level of fitness to improve in these 10 functional areas of movement. As DEKA Marks (time/score) improve, well rounded fitness and health & wellness improves.”

Yancy Culp, Co-founder of DEKA

WHAT IS A DEKA MARK? The DEKA Mark is a new standard of testing designed to establish an objective baseline of fitness that motivates us to consistently push our bodies. It’s standardized, allowing you to improve over time and compare your results to all DEKA athletes around the world.

DEKA is for all levels of fitness with a common goal of improving exercise adherence and celebrating fitness. To provide fitness benchmarks and celebrate fitness improvements, DEKA provides 3 testing and competition opportunities with DEKA STRONG, DEKA MILE, and DEKA FIT. All 3 provide our 10 functional fitness zones (DEKA Zones) which are based on rudimentary movements.  They are a well-rounded, low barrier of entry experience for beginners while also providing an exceptional test for high level athletes.

GAMIFICATION DEKA gamification occurs with DEKA Marks (scores) populating the DEKA global leaderboards and t-shirts and medals are provided to competitors. With consistent DEKA training and periodic re-testing, DEKA Marks (scores) improve.

In the same arena (our affiliate gyms and venues), on the same day, using the same fitness equipment, all levels come together and celebrate fitness.

Learn more about DEKA at On Your Mark Fitness HERE


Back to school time is a great time to help your kids, and the adults in their lives, develop lifelong healthy habits.

You know why exercise is important for your family: It can lower heart risks, control weight, and help kids do better in school. And it lets kids burn off some energy. Plus, family activities and fitness at an early age can go a long way toward helping children form healthy habits for life.But don’t expect your kids to understand — or even care — about those things. Your job is to make them see that moving more is fun. When exercise feels like play, your whole family will enjoy it more and be more likely to stick with it.

Here are five ideas for family fitness that can get you all moving.

1. Make Time to Play

Set aside 30 minutes three times a week to do fun exercises with your kids. Make it a part of your after-school or after-dinner routine. If your kids are young, they might like hopscotch or hide-and-seek. Kick a soccer ball around or shoot hoops with older children.

Also plan at least one family activity every weekend. It can be as simple as taking little ones to the playground — or as challenging as an all-day hike with your teenager.

A key to getting kids moving is to plan time for physical activities. You can find that time by turning off the TV, for starters. Then offer a variety of family activities, both competitive and noncompetitive. When kids explore different ways to move their bodies, they can find exercises they enjoy and want to stick with for the long run.

2. Walk or Bicycle Everywhere You Can

Use muscle power: Bike or walk to the grocery store, library, or to your child’s school or sports events. Go for a 30-minute family walk after dinner instead of heading right for the television. Track everyone’s steps with a pedometer, and try to add more distance every week. Use a family exercise log or colorful stickers to track your progress. Put your log or chart on the refrigerator as a reminder to keep up the good effort together.

3. Plan Active Family Gatherings

Serve up family fitness as well as cake at your child’s birthday party by planning active games such as tag or relay races. Older kids might enjoy throwing a dance party.

Any large gathering of kids is also a great chance to play a team sport. Just head to a nearby soccer field or basketball court. Other active party ideas: a pool party, in-line or ice skating, or climbing at an indoor rock gym.At family or holiday gatherings, turn off the TV and take a walk around the neighborhood or go for a short hike at a local park. Or get everyone outside for a game of catch or basketball.

4. Sing and Dance While You Clean

Set aside time for household chores and do them together as a family. Play music as you clean, and take turns choosing favorite songs. Younger children love to help out and can pick up toys or sweep floors while dancing with the broom. Older kids can dust, vacuum, and help make beds.

5. Make Yard Work Less of a Chore

Enjoy seasonal yard work together. Younger children can help plant and tend a garden. Older kids can rake leaves into a pile — and then jump in it. Make snow shoveling fun for all by building a snow fort or creating a family of snow people.


Take your game to the next level and help prevent injuries with this 5-minute warmup routine.

Pickleball is having a moment, especially among older adults — and it’s no surprise why. Studies show that the fun, fast-paced, and social sport helps older adults improve their heart health, stay active, and even cut their risk of depression.

Achy joints can benefit too, since the smaller court and lighter ball and racquet mean it’s not as strenuous as tennis. Even so, pickleball injuries are on the rise along with its popularity, according to a 2021 study published in the journal Injury Epidemiology.

In fact, among players over the age of 60, pickleball-related injuries are now on par with tennis-related injuries. When researchers looked at data from emergency room visits from 2010 to 2019, they found that most pickleball injuries in older adults result from slips, trips, and falls that lead to strains or sprains, fractures, and contusions.


Older men are more likely to strain or sprain a part of the body playing pickleball. Meanwhile, older women are more likely to suffer a fracture, especially a wrist fracture, according to the study.

You can minimize your injury risk with a proper — and consistent — warmup routine, says senior fitness expert Robert Linkul. He’s a certified personal trainer and strength coach in Shingle Springs, California.

Just a few minutes right before the game can help you prep your body for all the twisting and quick, multidirectional movements, Linkul says. He put together this quick warmup routine that you can do courtside.

How to Use This Pickleball Warmup Routine 

Arrive a few minutes early to work though some ranges of motion. “Gentle, constant but slow movement helps prime the muscles and minimize injuries,” says Linkul,

He says the body parts that need the most pre-game love are:

  • Lower back
  • Hip
  • Knee
  • Ankle
  • Shoulders

“If your body isn’t primed and warm and ready to go, then we’re actually causing the injury by not warming up,” he says, adding that as you age, your body is more susceptible to sports injuries.

Remember to do these exercises slowly and continually without holding any positions for more than five seconds.

As always, safety is key. The exercises here may be different or more advanced than your regular SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition, an injury, or balance issues, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.

How to do it:

  1. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Step forward with your left leg, letting your right heel lift off the floor.
  3. From this staggered stance, bend your front (left) knee to slowly lower your body as far as comfortable.
  4. Allow your back knee to bend as well until it hovers a few inches above the floor, but keep your weight pressed into your front heel.
  5. Draw your lower belly in, and lift your chest.
  6. Pause, then press through your front (left) foot to bring your back (right) foot forward and return to standing.
  7. Continue for 30–60 seconds, alternating legs.

Exercise #3: Step Out-and-In With Calf Raises for Lower Legs and Ankles

View on YouTube

How to do it:

  1. Stand tall with your feet about hip-width apart and your arms at your sides, palms facing in. (Position yourself near a wall, bench, or fence for support, if needed.)
  2. Bend your elbows to bring your hands near your shoulders.
  3. From here, step your right foot out to the side as far as is comfortable and push your hips back slightly to lower into a shallow squat.
  4. At the same time, straighten your arms.
  5. Push through your right heel to step your right foot back in and bend your elbows to return to your starting position.
  6. Continue alternating side to side for 30–60 seconds.

Make it easier: Eliminate the step motion. Instead, hold onto a wall or bench for support. Rise up on your toes then return to standing. Do this 10 times.

Variation: Staggered Stance Heel Raises

  1. Stand tall with your hands on a sturdy support object.
  2. With your toes pointing straight ahead, slide one foot forward so you’re in a staggered stance.
  3. Brace your core, then shift onto the balls of both feet.
  4. Pause here and slowly lower your heels back down. That’s one repetition.
  5. Do 10 to 12 reps.

Exercise #4: Trunk Twists for Spine and Upper Back

How to do it:

  1. Sit or stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent.
  2. Roll your shoulders back and down and bring your belly button toward your spine to engage your core.
  3. Stretch your arms straight out to your sides, hands level with your shoulders in a “T” position.
  4. Lifting your head and spine toward the ceiling, slowly rotate your torso to the right as far as is comfortable, twist back to center, and then rotate to the left. That’s 1 rep.
  5. Do 10 to 12 reps.

Note: Twisting exercises may not be safe for those with osteoporosis; check with your doctor. It’s OK to skip this move or replace it with a Seated Side Bend. View on YouTube

Exercise #5: Side Lunges for Inner Thighs and Hips

View on YouTube

How to do a basic side lunge:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing forward.
  2. Take a 12- to 24-inch step to the side with your toes still pointed forward.
  3. Shift your hips toward the step direction and slightly back at a 45-degree angle, with your weight on the mid-foot and heel.
  4. From there bend at the knee and hip to lower down into a side lunge position, stretching the inner thigh of the non-stepping leg.
  5. Hold the down position for 5 seconds, then push off with the food to return to standing.
  6. Repeat on the other side.
  7. Continue alternating side to side for 30–60 seconds.

Exercise #6: Band Pull-Aparts for Shoulders

View on YouTube

How to do it:

  1. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, arms straight out in front of you, and palms facing down, holding a resistance band with both hands.
  2. Your hands should be far enough that the band is taut, but not stretched tight.
  3. With control, squeeze your shoulder blades together to pull your hands farther apart.
  4. Pause, then slowly reverse the movement to return to the starting position. That’s one rep.
  5. Do one to two sets of 10 to 15 reps.

Don’t Forget to Cool Down

After the game, take a few minutes to gather yourself, bring your heart rate down and give your muscles a chance to recover.

“A couple of minutes of deep breathing will increase oxygen flow to the muscles,” Linkul says.

He likes this breathing technique called 1-to-10:

  1. Breathe in for one second, then out for one second.
  2. Do the same thing for two seconds in and two seconds out.
  3. Continue all the way up to 10 seconds in and 10 seconds out.

Also, spend a few minutes doing some stretching. “Dynamic stretching like you did in your warm-up is always a good cool down,” says Linkul. “Or you can do static stretching, where you sit and hold each muscle group for 30 to 40 seconds.”

Play Pickleball at the JCC! View schedules HERE
The JCC offers a full slate of SilverSneakers classes! View our in-person class schedules for Squirrel Hill and South Hills HERE


Starting new health behaviors takes planning — and a light touch.

Maybe your partner has replaced weekend runs with streaming marathons. Or maybe they’ve skipped a couple of years’ worth of checkups or parted ways with green vegetables. And maybe you haven’t said much, but you’ve been pretty worried.

You may have promised to love each other in sickness and health, but you’re hoping for more health than sickness — and it’s hard to watch your partner neglect their well-being. After all, you want to enjoy your life together.

Plus, their unhealthy habits could be affecting your health, too, A landmark Harvard study evaluating more than 12,000 people found that when one spouse was obese, the other’s chances of becoming obese increased by 37 percent. So there’s a good chance that their nightly ice-cream ritual is making you gain weight, too. And that’s not good for either of you.

Eager to broach the subject but not sure how? It can be touchy to ask someone you love to change their ways, so your best approach is one that’s gentle and supportive.

“Love and respect usually make cooperation easier,” says Tina Tessina, Ph.D., a licensed marriage and family therapist in Southern California. “Take some time to remind yourself of all the good and valuable aspects of your relationship, and then share them with your partner. Tell your partner you believe that better health care will enhance your love and your lives.”

Here are some expert-approved tips to motivate your partner — and reassure them that you care. After all, when they’re happy and healthy, you’re happy and healthy, too.

1. Find the Right Time

The problem: Starting a conversation when the washer is overflowing or company is on the way is never a good idea. Make a plan before you speak. Don’t blurt out all your concerns and frustrations the minute they pop into your head and hope for a positive response.

Try this:  Some couples prefer discussing serious issues in the quiet and calm of the evening, while others would rather talk it out over coffee on Sunday morning. Think about what’s worked best for you in the past and let experience guide you.

“Choose a moment when you feel strong, and you and your partner have some peaceful, uninterrupted time,” says Tessina. “Your goal is to be thoughtful, calm, and rational, even if your partner is aggravating, dismissive, or childish in his or her responses.”

2. Choose Your Words Carefully 

The problem:  It’s easy to be critical. Your concerns are serious, so it feels natural to say things like You should eat better or You really need to go to the dentist. Those things may be true — and your partner may know it — but they probably won’t receive the message well. It puts them on the defensive and makes them feel like you’re blaming them.

Try this: Rather than making “You” statements, try “I” statements — that’s a way of communicating that puts the focus on your feelings and off your partner’s behaviors. For example, saying I feel worried when you miss medical appointments — I want us both to stay healthy for our weekend hikes will likely get a better response than saying If you keep skipping your medical appointments, you won’t even be able to walk around the block.

3. Listen More Than You Talk

The problem: Everyone wants to feel good and be healthy. They may not really know why they’re behaving in a way that hurts their well-being.

There may be lots of things going on, from fear of a serious diagnosis to the loss of control they may experience at the doctor’s office. Sometimes issues relating to the body and health are sensitive and hard to be open and honest about. You can help by becoming an active listener.

Try this: “Try to understand your partner’s resistance,” says Tessina. Ask your partner questions about why they’re reluctant to take better care of themselves. “What you learn will make the difference for your success.”

4. Find Creative Solutions

The problem: You have a rigid idea about what your partner should be doing, which gives your partner plenty of room to fall short of your expectations. That could lead to a sense of failure, and even to hurt feelings. Instead, says Tessina, “Explain the benefits of healthier habits as your partner would perceive them.”

Try this: Be flexible and willing to meet your partner where they are. That can go a long way toward making you both happier and healthier. If you want them to exercise more, you could point out that it will make it easier for them to do something they enjoy, like Pickleball or golf. Or mention the positive impact of exercise on their heart health.

And bring in all your creative problem-solving skills. Suppose your partner says yes to more physical activity but no to the gym. Look through the SilverSneakers LIVE online class menu to find workouts you could do together, or pick an outdoor activity your partner can learn to love.

You can find creative solutions to almost any obstacle to behavior change. Looking to shift to a plant-based diet but your partner’s not on board? See if they’ll go for two vegetarian dinners a week. Looking to get them back into the dentist’s chair? They might agree to go yearly but not every six months — a big improvement over not going at all.

5. Be Open to Change

The problem: Sometimes it’s fear that keeps a person from prioritizing their health, says Tessina. If you think your partner is depressed and want them to try therapy, for example, the main obstacle could be fear of the unknown or fear of being judged.

That fear seems to be hard-wired into our brains. In one study, participants played a computer game that asked them to turn over rocks that might have snakes underneath — then received a painful electric shock when the snakes crawled out. With no idea when the shocks would be coming, their stress levels skyrocketed — proof of the powerful connection between uncertainty and stress. It’s no wonder your partner may be worried about trying something new.

Try this: Offer support in the form of gentle, ongoing encouragement. “You may need to reassure your partner many times because you are asking for change, and change is unsettling and produces anxiety,” says Tessina. “Unwillingness to make changes almost always indicates fear of the outcome.”

Remember: The simple act of trying something new activates dopamine networks in the brain. Those are the chemicals that make you feel good and help you learn new things.  All the more reason to try new healthy behaviors.

6. Practice What You Preach

The problem: In every couple, there’s usually one person who takes the healthy-living lead. A study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that people were more successful at quitting bad habits like smoking when their partner did so as well. And a 2021 study that followed more than 5,000 couples over 12 years found that when one partner set the example, the other was more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables and get more physical activity.

Try this: If you want your partner to get annual checkups, make sure you always get yours. And if possible, make your appointment for the same time — your partner may appreciate the moral support! If you want them to engage in physical activity three times a week, you should get moving and invite them along.

The JCC offers a full slate of SilverSneakers classes! View our in-person class schedules for Squirrel Hill and South Hills HERE



Original Article Published on

Regular exercise is one of the surest ways to stay physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy. Apart from helping you lose weight, boosting your flexibility, and improving muscular strength, it helps you sleep better, breathe better, and keep diseases at bay better. It puts you on the path to better self-esteem and confidence as you grow thinner or acquire a more attractive physique. As you might already know, the benefits of regular exercise are literally too many to mention.

But maintaining a consistent routine is not everyone’s cup of tea. Many people start their workout regimen, only to give up along the way due to various reasons. Some of these reasons include busy work schedules, the lack of knowledge of proper training techniques, diminished motivation, injuries, and other reasons that make it hard to realize positive results. If you watch closely, most of those people who give up along the way simply do not know how to go about it when training alone. It also happens to beginners who start training in the company of advanced-level gymnasts and end up feeling left out. Well, before we go any further, you may need a professional personal trainer for the following reasons.

You Are Just Starting Out

When you are just getting started with working out, you will obviously have to set some goals based on what is driving you to exercise. Whether you’re looking to lose weight, gain muscle, improve your flexibility, or boost your overall health and fitness, you can never go wrong with a personal trainer. As you can tell from the name, the good thing about professional personal trainers is that they help you improve your health through a personalized approach. Your personal trainer can help develop a program that will work best for you based on your current health and fitness needs. They will consider factors such as your age, occupation, activity levels, weight, medical history, and so forth to develop a training program that you can easily keep up with.

It Is Safer

A lot of fitness enthusiasts end up hurting themselves in the pursuit of fitness or weight loss. With the help of a personal training professional, the risk of injury from workout and fitness products is limited. An experienced personal trainer will always have your best interests at heart. They’ll ensure you lift weights the right way and perform your workout moves safely without sustaining injuries.

You Are A Professional Athlete

Professional athletes often face tough times. They have to maintain and improve their fitness levels to keep glowing at the pitch or field. But it becomes really challenging when you need to advance in certain areas or when you get an injury. In this case, a professional trainer will be dedicated to creating a fitness program best suited for your needs as an athlete. Whether or not you keep your mojo in the game may entirely depend on the trainer you hire. A professional trainer will also help adjust your fitness program accordingly when you are recuperating from an injury. Whether you’re an athlete or not, they will also provide you with nutritional tips or advice on what you should and shouldn’t put in your body.

You Have An Extremely Busy Schedule

As earlier mentioned, most of us abandon our fitness goals halfway because time is limited, and our busy schedules won’t let us. With a professional trainer, your fitness program can be customized to suit even the busiest of schedules. Plus you don’t always have to present yourself physically. Virtual classes are available these days, and your trainer can always record personalized instructional videos for you to use when working out from home.

You Need New Challenges

Especially for novice and experienced individuals in physical exercise, it is not unusual to start feeling stagnant at some point. Your workout routine becomes monotonous and starts feeling extra boring. For trying to lose weight or gain muscle, this is often called “hitting a plateau” in your workouts. To avoid losing motivation, a personal training professional can help add to your program, workout moves and techniques that you may find more challenging. Moreover, the personal trainer can be your training partner, as well as the guy who pushes you beyond your limits.

Finally, a pro trainer can also mentor you to exercise on your own. When training for a big event or sporting occasion, they are the person to approach. After all, a successful workout routine is all about safety, support, motivation, accountability, and consistency. From the few pointers, you have more than enough reasons why you would want to spend an extra few dollars hiring a professional personal trainer.



Stay safe during hot-weather exercise by drinking enough fluids, wearing proper clothing and timing your workout to avoid extreme heat.

Whether you’re running, playing a pickup game of basketball or going for a power walk, take care when the temperature rises. If you exercise outdoors in hot weather, use these commonsense precautions to prevent heat-related illnesses.

How heat affects your body Exercising in hot weather puts extra stress on your body. If you don’t take care when exercising in the heat, you risk serious illness. Both the exercise itself and the air temperature and humidity can increase your core body temperature.

To help cool itself, your body sends more blood to circulate through your skin. This leaves less blood for your muscles, which in turn increases your heart rate. If the humidity also is high, your body faces added stress because sweat doesn’t readily evaporate from your skin. That pushes your body temperature even higher.

Under normal conditions, your skin, blood vessels and perspiration level adjust to the heat. But these natural cooling systems may fail if you’re exposed to high temperatures and humidity for too long, you sweat heavily, and you don’t drink enough fluids.

The result may be a heat-related illness. Heat-related illnesses occur along a spectrum, starting out mild but worsening if left untreated. Heat illnesses include:

  • Heat cramps. Heat cramps, sometimes called exercise-associated muscle cramps, are painful muscle contractions that can occur with exercise. Affected muscles may feel firm to the touch. You may feel muscle pain or spasms. Your body temperature may be normal.
  • Heat syncope and exercise-associated collapse Heat syncope is a feeling of lightheadedness or fainting caused by high temperatures, often occurring after standing for a long period of time, or standing quickly after sitting for a long period of time. Exercise-associated collapse is feeling lightheaded or fainting immediately after exercising, and it can occur especially if you immediately stop running and stand after a race or a long run.
  • Heat exhaustion. With heat exhaustion, your body temperature rises as high as 104 F (40 C), and you may experience nausea, vomiting, weakness, headache, fainting, sweating and cold, clammy skin. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke.
  • Heatstroke. Heatstroke is a life-threatening emergency condition that occurs when your body temperature is greater than 104 F (40 C). Your skin may be dry from lack of sweat, or it may be moist.You may develop confusion, irritability, headache, heart rhythm problems, dizziness, fainting, nausea, vomiting, visual problems and fatigue. You need immediate medical attention to prevent brain damage, organ failure or even death.

Pay attention to warning signs During hot-weather exercise, watch for signs and symptoms of heat-related illness. If you ignore these symptoms, your condition can worsen, resulting in a medical emergency. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Excessive sweating
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Low blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Visual problems

If you develop any of these symptoms, you must lower your body temperature and get hydrated right away. Stop exercising immediately and get out of the heat. If possible, have someone stay with you who can help monitor your condition.

Measuring core body temperature with a rectal thermometer is essential to accurately determine the degree of heat injury. An oral, ear or forehead thermometer doesn’t provide an accurate temperature reading for this purpose. In cases of heatstroke, due to confusion and mental status changes, you won’t be able to treat yourself and you’ll require emergency medical care. The most effective way of rapid cooling is immersion of your body in a cold- or ice-water tub.

In cases of heat exhaustion, remove extra clothing or sports equipment. Make sure you are around people who can help you and assist in your care. If possible, fan your body or wet down your body with cool water.

You may place cool, wet towels or ice packs on your neck, forehead and under your arms, spray yourself with water from a hose or shower, or sit in a tub filled with cold water. Drink fluids such as water or a sports drink. If you don’t feel better within about 20 minutes, seek emergency medical care.

When to see a doctor If you have signs of heatstroke, you’ll need immediate medical help. If your core temperature is less than 104 F (40 C), but it doesn’t come down quickly, you’ll also need urgent medical attention. In some cases, you may need fluids through intravenous (IV) tubes if you’re not able to drink fluids, or not able to drink enough fluids.

Get cleared by your doctor before you return to exercise if you’ve had heatstroke. Your doctor will likely recommend that you wait to return to exercise or sports until you’re not experiencing symptoms. If you’ve had a heatstroke, you may require many weeks before you are able to exercise at a high level. Once your doctor clears you for exercise, you may begin to exercise for short periods of time and gradually exercise for longer periods as you adjust to the heat.

How to avoid heat-related illnesses When you exercise in hot weather, keep these precautions in mind:

  • Watch the temperature. Pay attention to weather forecasts and heat alerts. Know what the temperature is expected to be for the duration of your planned outdoor activity. In running events, there are “flag” warnings that correspond to the degree of heat and humidity. For example, a yellow flag requires careful monitoring, and races are canceled in black flag conditions.
  • Get acclimated. If you’re used to exercising indoors or in cooler weather, take it easy at first when you exercise in the heat. It can take at least one to two weeks to adapt to the heat. As your body adapts to the heat over time, gradually increase the length and intensity of your workouts.
  • Know your fitness level. If you’re unfit or new to exercise, be extra cautious when working out in the heat. Your body may have a lower tolerance to the heat. Reduce your exercise intensity and take frequent breaks.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration is a key factor in heat illness. Help your body sweat and cool down by staying well-hydrated with water. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink fluids.

If you plan to exercise intensely, consider a sports drink instead of water. Sports drinks can replace the sodium, chloride and potassium you lose through sweating. Avoid alcoholic drinks because they can actually promote fluid loss.

  • Dress appropriately. Lightweight, loosefitting clothing helps sweat evaporate and keeps you cooler. Avoid dark colors, which can absorb heat. If possible, wear a light-colored, wide-brimmed hat.
  • Avoid midday sun. Exercise in the morning or evening, when it’s likely to be cooler outdoors. If possible, exercise in shady areas, or do a water workout in a pool.
  • Wear sunscreen. A sunburn decreases your body’s ability to cool itself and increases the risk of skin cancer.
  • Have a backup plan. If you’re concerned about the heat or humidity, stay indoors. Work out at the gym, walk laps inside the mall or climb stairs inside an air-conditioned building.
  • Understand your medical risks. Certain medical conditions or medications can increase your risk of a heat-related illness. If you plan to exercise in the heat, talk to your doctor about precautions.

Heat-related illnesses are largely preventable. By taking some basic precautions, your exercise routine doesn’t have to be sidelined when the heat is on.


One of the best ways to boost your fitness is to break away from your exercise routine and try something new.

When are you “too old” to try a new sport or physical activity? “Never!” says James N. Robinson, M.D., a sports medicine physician at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. 

In fact, it’s a common misconception that older adults need — or want — to stick with the same old, same old.  

“The body adapts to exercise, so over time it’s important to change your routine and try new exercises,” Dr. Robinson says. “Find an activity you enjoy so you’ll stick with it.” 

To help you shake up your routine this summer (or anytime, really) we asked top health and wellness experts who specialize in working with older adults for a few fun new activities to add adventure to your summer. 

As always, safety is key. The activities here may be different or more advanced than your regular SilverSneakers class or gym workout. If you have a chronic condition, an injury, or balance issues, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely. 

Fun Fitness Activity #1: Take a Swing at Pickleball  Once you whack the perforated ball used in pickleball across the lower-than-tennis net, you’ll understand why it’s the fastest-growing sport for the second year in a row, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA).  The popular mashup of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong — often played as doubles — is easy to master, kinder on the body than tennis, and so fun it’s addictive for active aging adults. Sixty percent of people who play pickleball eight or more times a year are 55 or older, notes the SFIA. 

Play safe: Before you play, make sure to warm up with slow, active stretches.  During the game, USA Pickleball advises against “backpedaling,” or moving backward on the court to hit a ball, to reduce risk of falling.  Instead, turn and run for the ball — or just let your partner get it. After the game, take a few minutes to bring your heart rate down and give your muscles a chance to recover. Do a couple minutes of deep breathing to increase oxygen flow to the muscles, then do some static stretching

If (make that, when!) you get hooked on pickleball, check out the 3 Best Exercises to Improve Your Pickleball Game here 

PLAY PICKLEBALL at the JCC: Click HERE for Schedule

Fun Fitness Activity Idea #2: Sign Up for a “Race” Take your regular stroll up a notch by signing up for a local Independence Day fun run/walk, the second most popular day of the year for road races (after Thanksgiving), according to Running USA, a nonprofit organization that tracks racing trends.   

Fitness race camaraderie is contagious, and walkers are always welcome at community and charity fun runs, says Kenneth Koncilja, M.D., a geriatrician with the Cleveland Clinic Center for Geriatric Medicine.  

Have other plans for the holiday? Charity “races” are so popular that you won’t have to look hard to find one on a weekend that works for your schedule. Just type “charity fun runs near me” into your internet search bar and see what pops up.   

The websites and also have event calendars that you can filter by race type, distance, and location.    

If you’re already walking regularly, gradually adding 10 to 20 minutes to each walk will boost the fitness you need to take part in a fun run/walk.   

Walk safe: Sign up with a friend or family member.  “It’s helpful for motivation, to stay accountable, and for safety considerations,” Dr. Koncilja says.  Be sure to read the full event details before registering to review the course map. Double check that the course will be manageable — no surprise hills, for example. Also take note if walkers have a different start time or are to follow a different path than those who are running.  

Fun Fitness Activity #3: Go on a Guided Hike When you hike on a trail, navigating different terrain and changes in elevation works the muscles in your core, legs, and ankles more than “plain” walking does, explains Amanda Sachdeva, P.T., D.P.T., a physical therapist with Hospital for Special Surgery.  

Plus, hiking requires balance, coordination, and focus.  A guided hike takes any stress out of the equation as a professional plans the route, leads the hike, tells you what to bring or provides equipment, and offers local lore.  

Many state and local parks host guided hikes and tours; check the visitor guides on their websites to see what’s offered. You can also type “guided hikes near me” into your internet search bar. Another good resource for guided hikes is the outdoor retailer L.L. Bean’s Outdoor Discovery Program.   

Hike safe: Sachdeva points out that hiking is an activity you need to train for — even if you’re only going on a short hike. You might be able to walk 3 miles in your neighborhood in one hour, but depending on the terrain and conditions, a 3-mile hike can take much longer. If you’ve never hiked before, be sure to get your doctor’s OK. A smart training plan for hiking includes a mix of strength trainingcardio, and balance exercises.   Recruit a friend or family member to join you on the guided adventure. Consider hiking polls for added stability and to take stress off your knees and hips.  

Fun Fitness Activity #4: Ride a Bike Warm weather and long daylight hours make summer the perfect time to dust off your 10 speed for a cruise around your neighborhood.  

“Riding a bike is a nice low-impact activity that improves strength and muscular endurance in your legs,” says Sachdeva.  

Thinking about new wheels? Consider a pedal-assist “e-bike.” Popular among bicyclists age 55 and up, electric bikes still require pedaling but allow you to turn on a motor to help you power up hills and cover greater distances.  

Pedal safe: Traffic and unsafe crossings concern bicyclists of all ages, according to the League of American Bicyclists. Look for car-free local parks, rails-to-trails paths, and bicycle-friendly beach towns.   Don’t forget to wear a helmet. Opt for brightly colored clothing to help you stay visible to others on the route. Need to brush up on your pedaling skills? Local bike shops can put you in touch with beginner programs in your area. The national retailer REI also offers cycling classes for beginners that include the use of bikes and helmets. 

Fun Fitness Activity #5: Glide Along in a Kayak  Low impact and serene, kayaking is great way to socialize with other adventurous folks. Plus, navigating waters and looking for obstacles keeps your mind sharp.  “Kayaking is beneficial for improving upper body and core strength,” says physical therapist Sachdeva.  

Sign up for a class with a local YMCA or an outfitter that provides instruction and equipment, such as L.L.Bean and REI, which offer kayak classes for beginners nationwide.    

Paddle safe: Getting in and out of a kayak may be the biggest challenge. Ask for help stabilizing the kayak or consider a sit-on-top kayak.   Remember water-safety basics:  

  • Always wear a life jacket 
  • Apply sunscreen 
  • Bring water to stay hydrated 
  • Head out with a partner 
  • Let someone on land know when you’re heading out and when you plan to be back 

Fun Fitness Activity #6: Paddle Out on a Standup Paddleboard Standup paddleboarding (SUP) is more than just a fun way to explore waterways — it’s particularly beneficial for older adults.   Staying balanced and upright on a paddleboard calls on pretty much every muscle in your body, especially your core, points out physical therapist Michael Gervetzman, P.T., D.P.T., with Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. That makes it an awesome functional activity.

SUP safe: Look for beginner courses and guided excursions at lakes and waterways near you. L.L. Bean and REI both offer learn-to-SUP classes that include equipment.  Feeling wobbly? There’s no rule saying you must stand up. You can always sit or kneel on the paddle board first to gain confidence.  

Fun Fitness Activity #7: Find Your EnerChi Often called meditation in motion, the ancient Chinese martial art called tai chi improves balance, flexibility, strength, and mobility, and is particularly accessible for people with mobility issues, says Gevertzman.   

Science has shown tai chi provides a raft of health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, reducing depression, and improving cognition and immunity.  

Move safe: Even with gentle practice like tai chi, it’s important to bend, twist, and sway within your personal comfort zone.   “Start slow, especially if you’re taking medications or are new to exercise,” says Dr. Koncilja.   

Fun Fitness Activity #8: Take a Tap or Hip-Hop Dance Class  “Tap and hip-hop may seem like polar opposites, but both require motor planning, motor control, stability, and balance,” says Gevertzman.   

Plus, learning new dance sequences exercises your brain. Indeed, a research review showed that adults ages 52 to 78 who took dance classes improved flexibility, strength, balance, endurance, and cognition. They also tended to stick with the activity. The findings were published in the journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 

Dance safe: Tap and hip-hop can be fast-paced and confusing for beginners, which is why it’s best to look for a class tailored to older adults, says Gevertzman. Seated tap-dance classes offer the same fun opportunity for mobility-impaired folks and others dealing with chronic conditions. 

Fun Fitness Activity #9: Go Fishing  This favorite pastime releases stress, improves dexterity, and provides ample bonding time when you go fishing with friends or family, which helps relieve social isolation, says Dr. Koncilja.  

You can rent fishing equipment at outfitters located near water sources and find watering holes in state or national parks.

Fish safe: Recruit an experienced fishing partner — that’s what makes it fun! Always wear a life jacket. It’s also a smart idea to pack water and snacks since it’s easy to lose track of time when you’re fishing. And bring along a cell phone for safety. 



I was having a conversation with one of my “not able to stick with exercise” friends a little while back and during dinner she asked me, “How do you do it? How do you stick with it?” She, of course, was questioning my ability to make time to work out while simultaneously referencing her long-term inability to stick with any exercise program for more than a month or two before inevitably “falling off the wagon.”

Reframing Exercise as an Investment

My secret weapon, I told her, is the way I frame working out. “I look after myself so that, hopefully, no one else ever has to.” Then I got a bit Mama Browning on her. “You know how you say things like, ‘I don’t have enough hours in the day,’ or ‘It’s expensive to have all the equipment,’ and so on? I never frame working out like that – ever. To me, exercise is always an investment – never a cost!”

We have likely all heard a variation of the quote, “If you don’t make time for your wellness, you will be forced to make time for your illness.” Another personal favorite is, “No time for your health today; no health for your time tomorrow.” Both quotes suggest what we know to be true: while it does take time to exercise, that investment of time is getting banked and earning interest for our health tomorrow, with the goal of being able to increase our healthspan… not just our lifespan. Healthspan is usually defined as the period of our life in which we are healthy, independent, mobile, and free from dis-ease in our body.

Let’s Not Just Live Long…Let’s Prosper

A recent article in USA Today was titled bluntly: Want to live independently into old age? An aging America needs to make some changes, experts sayThe opening sentence reads, “In our eternal quest for long and healthy lives, new data shows America’s getting the ‘long’ part right – average life expectancy is expected to climb to 85.6 years by 2060 – but as the number of elderly Americans increases, the number of disabled Americans has grown with it.” The article pointed out that according to the CDC, currently 40% of the US adult population above 65 has a disability, one that affects mobility, cognition, or independent living. The CDC also states that 6 in 10 Americans have one chronic disease and 4 in 10 have two or more chronic diseases.

Personally, as I told my “not able to stick with exercise” friend, my worst nightmare would be living a long, disabled life, primarily because I would never want my two beautiful daughters to have to look after me in the prime of their lives…a trend that has become increasingly prevalent over the last decades. Many of us are referred to as the sandwich generation. We’re adults who have a living parent aged 65 or older and are simultaneously either raising a child or supporting a grown child, meaning we’re being pulled in many directions by multiple generations.

If we’re planning to live long and healthy lives, the investment in our health is not just for ourselves, but for our loved ones. We exercise to prevent the burden that being sick places on those around us.

And what about the excuse that exercise is costly? I suppose it can be if you are stockpiling equipment in your basement or paying for an exclusive club membership…and it’s all collecting dust. But broadly speaking, we invest in the right exercise equipment, and we invest in a club membership or a streaming service like MOSSA On Demand. The relatively small price pales in comparison to the cost of sickness.

The Cost of Not Exercising

Lack of physical activity comes with high health and financial costs – in fact, it costs the nation $117 billion annually for related health care. While it is difficult to find data on the cost to individuals for chronic disease, to give you an idea, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, heart attack patients paid $21,500 per hospital stay at an average length of 5.3 days in the hospital. Even with health insurance, Kaiser Health News reported incidents of some patients paying upwards of $100,000 when surgery is involved.

By the time we add up the cost of sickness, like out-of-pocket costs, loss of productivity, and missed opportunities, health becomes priceless.

Bottom line: we all must start framing exercise differently. It’s not punishment for eating too many gummy bears or French fries; it is a reward for being born with this incredibly capable body that yearns to be looked after and cared for. We don’t have to exercise…we get to exercise. It’s only when we lose the privilege of moving our bodies through injury or sickness, that we appreciate the gift of movement. It’s not that we don’t have time to exercise; it’s that we are not prioritizing the time to exercise. According to the average person’s daily social media usage of internet users worldwide amounted to 147 minutes per day, and it goes up steadily each year. Clearly, we can find the time if we look hard enough. It’s not that we don’t like exercise; it’s that we don’t like the exercise types we have tried thus far. Keep looking. Exercise does not have to be painful or joyless. In fact, MOSSA prides itself on creating exercise experiences that people can stick with and enjoy for the long term.

In the last decade, various articles have calculated the exercise “return on investment” based on research findings. For example, a middle-aged person who gets the recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise can expect 7 minutes extra of life for every minute spent moving…a 7 to 1 return on investment. More intense exercise has double the effect, so a 14 to 1 return on investment. Now even if the math doesn’t pan out and our life is cut unexpectedly short, the adage remains true: exercise isn’t just about adding years to our life… it’s about adding life to our years!

A Literal Call to Action

Now, maybe I am preaching to the converted, but we all have a “not able to stick with exercise” friend. And probably an “I wish I could prioritize it” family member. And an “If only I had your (time, discipline, tenacity) …” coworker. Maybe send them this article and offer to help them. Programs like MOVE30 and any of our 10-minute formats are unintimidating, yet enjoyable ways to get started. You never know – it could be a conversation that reframes someone’s thoughts on movement and changes someone’s life for the longer and healthier.

MOSSA creates and deliver workouts for the JCC and health clubs worldwide. View our MOSSA Group Exercise class schedule HERE


Regular exercise is one of the surest ways to stay physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy. Apart from helping you lose weight, boosting your flexibility, and improving muscular strength, it helps you sleep better, breathe better, and keep diseases at bay better. It puts you on the path to better self-esteem and confidence as you grow thinner or acquire a more attractive physique. As you might already know, the benefits of regular exercise are literally too many to mention.

But maintaining a consistent routine is not everyone’s cup of tea. Many people start their workout regimen, only to give up along the way due to various reasons. Some of these reasons include busy work schedules, the lack of knowledge of proper training techniques, diminished motivation, injuries, and other reasons that make it hard to realize positive results. If you watch closely, most of those people who give up along the way simply do not know how to go about it when training alone. It also happens to beginners who start training in the company of advanced-level gymnasts and end up feeling left out. Well, before we go any further, you may need a professional personal trainer for the following reasons.

You Are Just Starting Out When you are just getting started with working out, you will obviously have to set some goals based on what is driving you to exercise. Whether you’re looking to lose weight, gain muscle, improve your flexibility, or boost your overall health and fitness, you can never go wrong with a personal trainer. As you can tell from the name, the good thing about professional personal trainers is that they help you improve your health through a personalized approach. Your personal trainer can help develop a program that will work best for you based on your current health and fitness needs. They will consider factors such as your age, occupation, activity levels, weight, medical history, and so forth to develop a training program that you can easily keep up with.

It Is Safer A lot of fitness enthusiasts end up hurting themselves in the pursuit of fitness or weight loss. With the help of a personal training professional, the risk of injury from workout and fitness products is limited. An experienced personal trainer will always have your best interests at heart. They’ll ensure you lift weights the right way and perform your workout moves safely without sustaining injuries.

You Are A Professional Athlete Professional athletes often face tough times. They have to maintain and improve their fitness levels to keep glowing at the pitch or field. But it becomes really challenging when you need to advance in certain areas or when you get an injury. In this case, a professional trainer will be dedicated to creating a fitness program best suited for your needs as an athlete. Whether or not you keep your mojo in the game may entirely depend on the trainer you hire. A professional trainer will also help adjust your fitness program accordingly when you are recuperating from an injury. Whether you’re an athlete or not, they will also provide you with nutritional tips or advice on what you should and shouldn’t put in your body.

You Have An Extremely Busy Schedule As earlier mentioned, most of us abandon our fitness goals halfway because time is limited, and our busy schedules won’t let us. With a professional trainer, your fitness program can be customized to suit even the busiest of schedules. Plus you don’t always have to present yourself physically. Virtual classes are available these days, and your trainer can always record personalized instructional videos for you to use when working out from home.

You Need New Challenges Especially for novice and experienced individuals in physical exercise, it is not unusual to start feeling stagnant at some point. Your workout routine becomes monotonous and starts feeling extra boring. For trying to lose weight or gain muscle, this is often called “hitting a plateau” in your workouts. To avoid losing motivation, a personal training professional can help add to your program, workout moves and techniques that you may find more challenging. Moreover, the personal trainer can be your training partner, as well as the guy who pushes you beyond your limits.

Finally, a pro trainer can also mentor you to exercise on your own. When training for a big event or sporting occasion, they are the person to approach. After all, a successful workout routine is all about safety, support, motivation, accountability, and consistency. From the few pointers, you have more than enough reasons why you would want to spend an extra few dollars hiring a professional personal trainer.

The JCC offers a great many personal training options. JCC personal trainers are dedicated fitness experts with years of experience and specialties ranging from personalized routine development and injury prevention to sports conditioning. Our trainers are certified professionals with education across a variety of disciplines including nursing, physical therapy, exercise physiology, athletic training, and several specialized therapies—skills that can match your interests, concerns and needs.

For more information about working with a Personal Trainer at the JCC:


Celebrating July 4th?  It is important to balance out all of the fun with a few helpful actions. Here are nine quick tips to help you have a healthier and happier Independence Day.

DRINK LOTS OF WATER The summer is here, and that usually means that temperatures are on the rise. With so much going on during the holidays, it is common for people to forget to pause and drink water. Usually, when you feel thirsty, you are already less hydrated than you think. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to consider drinking water. By making sure to have water nearby and readily available, you and your guests can stay hydrated and enjoy a better holiday experience.

DRINK RESPONSIBLY When the holidays near, you, your friends, and your family may want to celebrate with a few beers, some liquor, or a couple of glasses of wine. No matter your adult beverage of choice, be sure that you drink responsibly. If you are going out with others and are relying on your vehicle (i.e. car, motor home, or even boat), be sure you know who the designated driver will be. Don’t have a designated driver? Well, then either stop drinking early so you’ll be sober before driving or call for a taxi or ride share (i.e. Lyft or Uber). Remember that drinking and driving does NOT just apply to vehicles on the road. Driving a boat or off-road vehicle while drunk or “buzzed” can be just as dangerous for you and those around you. When in doubt, just don’t do it. Also, if you have a designated driver and you plan to drink a lot, you still should consider having regular water nearby too, especially when the temperatures are higher during the middle of the afternoon. Drinking alcohol by itself will dehydrate you; balancing your alcoholic beverage intake with some regular, hydrating fluids will allow you to have a more enjoyable holiday and morning after.

COOK FOOD THOROUGHLY Often, the holidays come with some festive meal with friends and family. Be sure that you take the time to handle and cook the food correctly. Undercooking food can result in a miserable evening or even a visit to the emergency room. Don’t damper your holiday fun by overlooking the need to properly cook the food. Also, if you have a lot of people gathering for a meal, take an extra second to check to see if anyone has food allergies. You might cook with peanuts, but your friend who you didn’t know has a peanut allergy may not bring it up in conversation. With the holidays being so busy, it might be better to include this in any pre-event communication with those friends and family members who are gathering for the meal.

DON’T RUSH THE FIREWORK SHOW Independence Day is a holiday to celebrate; it represents so much for those in the United States, and it also is a holiday that takes place during a great time of the year – summer! Hence, this holiday usually comes with a firework display. If you are planning to put on your own firework display, be sure to take a little extra time and caution. If you are lighting the fireworks yourself, be sure the area is clear of bystanders (especially children) and free of easily ignitable brush.

ALLOW YOURSELF EXTRA TIME Speaking about NOT rushing, you’re not the only one trying to get out of town, get to the special in-town festival, grab last minute groceries, or forgot a few last-minute items for your holiday gathering. Life is stressful enough, and holiday demands can often magnify those even more. So, do your due diligence and plan ahead. If you are traveling anywhere or making a few stops at sores, roadways and stores will likely be a bit more crowded. As a result, allow yourself more time – leave earlier and go with the flow. If you leave late and get stuck in a traffic jam or crowded checkout line, your stress levels often increase, and you arrive later than anticipated. Giving yourself some more cushion will enable you to have a safe and less stressful time!

GET IN SOME EXERCISE With the additional errand running that you are likely to be doing, don’t forget about the importance of a little exercise. Sure, your schedule might not allow that multi-hour, crazy-intense workout at your favorite gym or outdoor park, but a little still goes a long way. Find time to get some exercise in; doing so should help enhance the metabolism and get your holiday off in the right direction.

REST! REST! REST! Whether you will be out on the boat for a day or two, heading out of town on vacation, hosting friends and family, or even taking any free time to catch up on household tasks, it is important that you still take time to relax. It is no coincidence that Dr. Stephen R. Covey listed “Sharpen the Saw” as one of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Take a break, kick back, and get some REST! Your body will likely need it, and you shouldn’t ignore your body, especially on the holidays. Use this time to recharge!

SOCIALIZE Life is too short to NOT make the most of the time we all share with one another. Your friends and family are the most important people in your life, so reach out and communicate. Spending some time together on the holidays is a great way to connect and solidify the great bonds we have previously built up.

CHEW YOUR FOOD! Holidays are synonymous with food. It is hard to go to a special event or a friend’s house without seeing and eating food. From hot dog eating contests to relaxed cook outs in the backyard, do yourself a favor and chew your food. Most often, you have plenty of time to eat. Take your time and chew your food. Like many of the other tips listed above, this tip sounds like complete common sense, right? It is common sense, but sometimes common sense isn’t as common, and we can all easily get distracted by a number of things. Simply said, take your time and enjoy the moment; nobody wants to have to administer the Heimlich Maneuver on anyone.

So, there you have it – nine quick and simple tips to make this and every Independence Day the best experience ever! Take the time to enjoy the holiday.


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.


Originally published by Maddy Bidduplh at

According to, 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.


Check out our NEW recovery room and all its offerings, including massage guns, here.


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.


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


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.

  1. “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
  2. 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.
  3. “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
  4. 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.
  5. “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
  6. “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
  7. “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
  8. “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
  9. 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.
  10. “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
  11. “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
  12. “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
  13. “Choosing a healthy life connects my mind, body and spirit, allowing for peace and serenity.” Dina Filice
  14. “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
  15. “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
  16. Staying active gives you a boost of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, the natural chemicals that enhance our moods and help us feel happier.
  17. “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
  18. People who work out tend to have better coordination, which means you’ll have stronger motor skills for athletic activities and detail-oriented tasks.
  19. “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
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. “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
  23. Workouts help to relieve the stress of busy lifestyles, so you’ll be more relaxed and in tune with your body.
  24. “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
  25. Exercising outdoors—whether it’s running, walking, hiking, biking or yoga—increases your dose of vitamin D, which is a natural mood booster.
  26. “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
  27. 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.
  28. “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
  29. 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.
  30. “I am investing in myself through healthy foods, which feels good all the way down to my cells!” Kendra Davies with Stellar Life Coaching
  31. “I’m taking the time to exercise, which stimulates feel-good endorphins and builds a strong heart.” Dina Filice
  32. “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
  33. “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
  34. “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
  35. Achieving a stronger mind/body connection through meditation and breathing techniques will help you expel negative thoughts and welcome positive affirmations.
  36. “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
  37. 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.
  38. 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.
  39. “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
  40. “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
  41. “My self-esteem and value is raised through consistency.” Dina Filice
  42. 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.
  43. “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
  44. Quality sleep, which is an important component of healthy living, increases your overall sense of well-being.
  45. Many healthy, protein-rich foods include tryptophan, an amino acid that helps to produce serotonin, which helps to improve mood and promotes healthy sleep.
  46. “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
  47. Research has linked exercise to a better work/life balance.
  48. “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
  49. 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.
  50. “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?


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


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


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.


You’ll get stronger, feel happier, and have fun with new friends!

woman taking silversneakers classWhether 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.

Virtual Classes

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.


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) JournalMedical 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.



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 


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!


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


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.
Why Might You Need More Vitamin D?

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.

Related: Slow Wound Healing – Wounds don’t seem to heal as fast in people with low levels of vitamin D. That’s particularly true for people with burns. Research is ongoing to see if vitamin D supplements can help people recover faster from burns and other wounds.

Related: Osteoporosis – It affects a third of women between the ages of 60 and 70 and two thirds of women 80 or older. No single thing causes it, but not enough vitamin D makes it harder for your body to use the minerals it needs to keep bones strong.

In osteoporosis, this means enlargement of natural spaces in the substance of your bones. They become more “porous,” which makes them more breakable.

Related: Muscle Pain – People who have pain and weakness in their muscles and bones often don’t have enough vitamin D. In older people especially, weak muscles can raise your chances of falling and breaking a bone. It also may be a sign of osteoporosis. Talk to your doctor if you notice any pain. That could be a warning sign that can go away with vitamin D supplements or changes in diet or lifestyle.
Related: Rickets – In the 1800s, city pollution could be thick enough to block much of the sunlight. This caused low vitamin D levels that led to an epidemic of this children’s disease that stunts growth and softens and misshapes growing bones. More sun and vitamin-fortified foods helped stop it. But you can still get rickets. It’s especially possible in babies born to moms with severely low vitamin D, something more common among African American women.

Related: Osteomalacia – Unlike rickets, which is mostly a childhood disease, you can get osteomalacia through adulthood. Even after your bones stop growing, they need vitamin D for repair and maintenance. If your levels stay low for a long time, it can soften your bones. That can cause breaks and other problems, especially in your hips.

Other Related Conditions – There is some evidence that vitamin D levels could have an effect on diabetes (types 1 and 2) high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, and some types of cancer.  Scientists continue to study the relationship between vitamin D and serious illness.

At Risk: Breastfed Infants – There often isn’t enough vitamin D in breast milk to keep infants healthy unless the mother takes a supplement. Rickets happens most often in breastfed children. African American mothers, in particular, tend to start with less vitamin D in their blood. Experts say breastfeeding infants need an extra 400 IU of vitamin D per day.

At Risk: People With Bowel Problems – Your body needs fat to use vitamin D. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and other conditions that affect your gut — like celiac disease and cystic fibrosis — make it harder for you to absorb this fat. That can mean you need more vitamin D to keep your levels up. Supplements seem to help.

At Risk: People With Gastric Bypass – It’s a type of surgery that removes part of the stomach or intestines (sometimes both) so that you feel fuller faster and eat fewer calories. After the surgery, it’s harder to absorb some nutrients including vitamin B12, copper, zinc, calcium, and vitamin D. Your doctor will probably track your levels and suggest daily vitamin supplements to keep your levels healthy.

At Risk: People Who Are Obese – If you have a BMI of 30 or more (meaning you are obese), your vitamin D levels are more likely to be lower than someone who isn’t obese. It’s not that your skin makes less vitamin D, it’s that the extra fat under your skin keeps more of it and changes the way it goes into your blood. Diet, lifestyle changes, and supplements can help.

Keep Tabs on Your Vitamin D

A simple blood test can let you know your vitamin D level. Consider a test if you’re homebound, blocked off from sunlight, or have signs of low vitamin D like bone pain, muscle pain, or a condition like osteoporosis.

If you think your levels are low, don’t overdo supplements to make up the difference. Too much can be harmful.

5 SURPRISING FACTS ABOUT HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What you don’t know about high blood pressure could hurt you. High blood pressure affects nearly half of the adult population in the United States, yet many people who have the condition don’t know they have it.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure raises the risk for heart disease and stroke, which are leading causes of death in the United States. Fortunately, high blood pressure is treatable and preventable.

To lower your risk, get your blood pressure checked regularly and take action to control your blood pressure if it is high.

1. High blood pressure may be linked to dementia.

Recent studies show that high blood pressure is linked to a higher risk for dementia, a loss of cognitive function. Timing seems to matter. Evidence suggests that having uncontrolled high blood pressure during midlife (ages 44 to 66) creates a higher risk for dementia later in life. The takeaway? It’s never too early to start thinking about your blood pressure and taking steps to manage your high blood pressure.

Learn more about the link between high blood pressure and dementia from the National Institutes of Health’s Mind Your Risks®external icon campaign.

2. Young people can have high blood pressure, too.

High blood pressure doesn’t just happen to older adults. Nearly 1 in 4 adults aged 20 to 44 have high blood pressure.High blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke, a condition that is on the rise among younger people. Experts think the increased risk for stroke in this age group is a direct result of the rising rates of obesity, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes—conditions that are preventable and treatable.

Ask your health care team how often you should check your blood pressure. You can get your blood pressure checked at a doctor’s office or pharmacy, and you can check it at home if you have a home blood pressure monitor.

Many people with high blood pressure don’t even know they have it. The only way to know is to check your blood pressure regularly.

3. High blood pressure usually doesn’t have any symptoms.

High blood pressure is sometimes called the “silent killer.” Most people with high blood pressure don’t have any symptoms. Because many people feel fine, they don’t think they need to get their blood pressure checked.

Even if you feel normal, your health may be at risk. Talk to your doctor about your risk for high blood pressure.

4. Many people who have high blood pressure don’t know it.

About 1 in 3 U.S. adults with high blood pressure aren’t even aware they have it and are not being treated to control their blood pressure.

Even though most people with uncontrolled high blood pressure have health insurance and visit a health care team member at least twice a year, the condition is often not diagnosed. CDC is working with health care professionals to find patients with high blood pressure who are “hiding in plain sightexternal icon.”

Ask your health care team what your blood pressure numbers mean and if they are too high. Stick to your treatment plan and follow your provider’s advice if you are diagnosed with high blood pressure.

5. Women and African Americans face unique risks when it comes to high blood pressure.

Women with high blood pressure who become pregnant are more likely to have complications during pregnancy than those with normal blood pressure. High blood pressure during pregnancy can harm a mother’s kidneys and other organs, and it can lead to premature delivery and low birth weight babies.

Some types of birth control can also raise a woman’s risk for high blood pressure. Women with high blood pressure who want to become pregnant should work with their health care team to lower their blood pressure before becoming pregnant.

African American men and women have higher rates of high blood pressure than any other racial or ethnic group. These individuals are also more likely to be hospitalized for high blood pressure. Experts think these health disparities are tied to higher rates of obesity and diabetes.

By living a healthy lifestyle, you can help keep your blood pressure in a healthy range and lower your risk for heart disease and stroke. A healthy lifestyle includes:

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Getting enough physical activity
  • Not smoking
  • Limiting alcohol use

Learn more about steps you can take to prevent high blood pressure.

Lifestyle changes, such as reducing sodium in your diet, being more physically active, and reducing stress, can help lower blood pressure.

What is CDC is doing to support high blood pressure control?

CDC supports several public health efforts that address high blood pressure, including:

  • Million Hearts®external icon is a national initiative with a goal to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes. Co-led by CDC and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Million Hearts® provides toolkits to help health care professionals work with patients with undiagnosed high blood pressure and provide consistent, effective treatment.
  • WISEWOMAN™ (Well-Integrated Screening and Evaluation for WOMen Across the Nation) is a program that provides low-income, underinsured, or uninsured women with chronic disease screenings, lifestyle programs, and referral services to prevent heart disease and stroke. CDC funds 30 WISEWOMAN programs, which work on the local level in states and tribal organizations.
  • Sodium Reduction in Communities Program (SRCP) aims to increase access to lower sodium foods and reduce the amount of sodium people in the United States eat and drink each day. CDC funds six local communities and four states to carry out this work.

KEEP IT MOVING | Molly Gries

Strength and Balance Training for the Older Adult*

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


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


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.

The report was published recently in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

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 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:

Overall discomfort
Significant shortness of breath
Muscular weakness

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.


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 Grapefruit
2 Oranges
1 Blood Orange
Olive Oil

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

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Grate 1 TBSP of zest from one orange and juice ½ of the orange.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Mix the dressing. Place all ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously.
  5. 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.


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.


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


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!


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.”
—Celeste R.

“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.”
—Jack S.

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


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.

Create Habits

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.

The Takeaway

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.


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, 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 “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, 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.”


“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 boundariestaking 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. 1. Share a specific example of something they did for you and how it made a difference in your life.
  2. Do something little but thoughtful for them—like clean up after Thanksgiving dinner!
  3. 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.
  4. Tell them you’re there if they have anything they want to talk about—and let them know they have your full attention.
  5. Give them something of yours that you think they would enjoy, and let them know specifically why you want them to have it.
  6. Invite them to do something you know they’ve always wanted to do.
  7. Encourage them to try something you know they want to try, but haven’t yet because they’re scared.
  8. Offer to do something you know they don’t enjoy doing, like organizing their closet or mowing their lawn.
  9. Compliment them on a talent, skill, or strength that you admire.
  10. Look them straight in the eyes and say, “You make the world a better place.”
Show Gratitude to People Who Challenge You
  1. Fully listen to what they have to say instead of forming your rebuttal in your head and waiting to speak.
  2. Thank them for introducing you to a new way to look at things, even if you still don’t agree.
  3. Pinpoint something you admire about their commitment to their beliefs—even if you don’t hold them, as well.
  4. Resist the urge to tell them they’re wrong.
  5. Challenge them right back to be the best they can be, with love and positive intentions.
  6. 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.
  7. Write a blog post about how they helped you see things differently and dedicate it to them.
  8. Use the lesson this person teaches you through your interactions, whether it’s patience, compassion, or courage.
  9. Introduce them to someone who may challenge them and help them grow, as they’ve done for you.
  10. 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
  1. Give a larger tip than usual.
  2. If they have a tip jar, include a thoughtful note of appreciation along with your coins or bills.
  3. Smile when you order or enlist their assistance. Smiles are contagious, so give one away!
  4. If they serve you regularly, acknowledge something they always do well—like work efficiently or stay calm under pressure.
  5. Exhibit patience, even if you’re in a hurry.
  6. Let their superior know they do an outstanding job.
  7. Keep their workplace clean—for example, at a coffee shop, clean up after yourself at the sugar stand.
  8. Offer to get a coffee for them, if it’s someone working in or outside your home.
  9. 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.
  10. Praise them in a review on Yelp and/or recommend them to people you know.
Show Gratitude to People Who Work with You
  1. Write a hand-written thank you note, acknowledging things you value about them and their work.
  2. Offer to lighten their workload in some way if you are able.
  3. Bring back lunch for them if you know they’re working hard and likely haven’t had a chance to grab something.
  4. If you’re running a meeting, keep it short to show them you appreciate and respect their time.
  5. 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.
  6. Be the calm, light voice in a stressful situation.
  7. Give them flowers to brighten their desk.
  8. Let their boss know how they’re doing a great job and contributing to the company.
  9. 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.
  10. Remember the little things can make a big difference!
Show Gratitude for Yourself
  1. Make a list of ways you’ve impressed yourself lately.
  2. Treat yourself to something you enjoy, like a pedicure or a massage.
  3. If someone compliments you, thank them and let them know you’re proud of that skill, talent, or accomplishment.
  4. 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.
  5. Give yourself time to enjoy a passion you’re sometimes too busy to fit in.
  6. Take an inventory of all the good things you’ve done for other people and the world.
  7. Write yourself a love letter. Seriously, start with “Dear Lori” (but insert your own name) and describe all the things you admire about yourself.
  8. 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.
  9. Schedule a date with yourself—an afternoon or evening that’s all about you.
  10. 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!


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.


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.

Happy Adventuring!


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!

Recipes: Stuffed Acorn Squash | Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats



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!


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


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


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!


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.


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.


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 [1]. 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.



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

  1. If you live in a house, create a child – friendly backyard.
  2. 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.
  3. Provide simple tools to aid discovery. Kids love tools! Include a bug box, trowel, magnifier, etc.
  4. 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.
  5. Encourage plenty of time outside. Consider taking a walk to the library, store or post office instead of driving.
  6. 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.
  7. Take advantage of the natural resources available in your area. Take children canoeing, kayaking or fishing.
  8. 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.
  9. Provide a tree identification book to help kids learn about the trees in their own neighborhood.
  10. In the fall, leave the fallen leaves down for a while so kids can run around and shuffle through them.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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


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


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.”


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!”


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


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!”


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
( 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: 

1.Reduces stress

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


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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.


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.”


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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

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