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Healthy and Fit | Tip of the Week

Posted by JCC Pittsburgh on February 15, 2024
Healthy and Fit | Tip of the Week

HOW TO TREAT ANXIETY NATURALLY | UPMC Health Beat

What Is Anxiety? Anxiety is the body’s normal response to danger and other stressful situations. It affects your body and mind and prompts feelings of fear, dread, and worry.

It’s normal to feel anxious if you’re giving a speech, taking a test, or entering a new social situation. But anxiety can also be persistent and interfere with daily life. If you’re consistently feeling anxious or worried, your doctor may diagnose you with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Other more severe anxiety disorders are panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. They affect about 40 million adults.

Whether your anxiety is mild or severe, it can cause both physical and mental symptoms.

Symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Avoiding situations that create anxiety.
  • Chest pain.
  • Compulsive behavior (constantly checking things).
  • Dizziness.
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat.
  • Fearing the worst will happen.
  • Feeling overheated.
  • Feeling tense or nervous.
  • Having trouble concentrating on tasks.
  • Headaches.
  • Insomnia.
  • Intrusive thoughts and memories.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or leisure time activities.
  • Not being able to catch your breath.
  • Not wanting to try new things.
  • Obsessive thoughts.
  • Shakiness.
  • Sweating.
  • Trouble concentrating.
  • Trouble maintaining friendships and other relationships.
  • Worry about the past or future.

How to Treat Anxiety Naturally

If you suffer from GAD, your doctor may recommend medication and/or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Both approaches can help calm those with anxiety disorders.

But there are also steps you can take by yourself to relieve symptoms of anxiety. These lifestyle changes may be enough to help you feel better without medication.

Build downtime into your daily routine You can help manage anxious feelings by taking time for yourself each day. Whether it’s prayer, meditation, a soothing bath, or a walk in the woods — time to de-stress is an important part of your mental health.

Connect with family and friends Being around other people in a positive setting can help you banish anxious thoughts. Talking about your feelings with trusted friends, family, or a counselor can also help put them in perspective.

Take time to connect with friends and family on a regular basis. To build your social network, join a community group, worship center, or book club. Sometimes just being around other people can help you gain perspective on your worries.

Eat healthfully A diet of whole grains, lean meat, and fresh vegetables may not prevent anxiety but can help you combat it. Avoid eating sugar, white flour, and food that’s fried or full of preservatives. A poor diet can lead to mood swings and leave you feeling lethargic, run-down, and more prone to depression and anxiety.

Exercise regularly When your body feels better, your mind will too. Physical activity produces brain chemicals (endorphins) that act as natural painkillers.

Choose an activity you enjoy, whether it’s swimming, jogging, dancing, or walking. Thirty minutes of cardiovascular exercise five times a week is ideal. But even a brisk 10-minute walk can improve your mood and help you feel more able to cope with stress.

Limit alcohol and caffeine Caffeine is a stimulant that can greatly increase feelings of anxiety and contribute to insomnia. Alcohol is a depressant but can also interfere with sleep and general feelings of well-being. Eliminating or cutting down on both can help you feel calmer and more in control of your worries.

Practice deep breathing One of the simplest ways to calm anxiety is to take deep, slow breaths. By focusing on the process of inhaling and exhaling (which you normally don’t think about) you divert your mind from your anxiety. Deep breathing also stimulates the vagus nerve, which prompts a state of relaxation.

Practice good sleep habits Your body and mind function best when you’re well-rested, but worry and fear can keep you up at night. Not getting enough sleep creates more anxiety, triggering a vicious cycle.

Consistent sleep habits are key to a good night’s rest. They include:

  • Avoiding any type of screen (TV, computer, phone) at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Abstaining from caffeine and alcohol before bedtime.
  • Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, including weekends.
  • Keeping your bedroom cool and dark.
  • Not using your bedroom for anything but sleep and sex.

Unplug at regular intervals It’s great to know what’s happening in the world, but getting caught in a 24-hour news cycle can trigger anxiety. You may start to feel like the world is a terrible place and you can’t control anything. It’s better to take breaks (schedule them if you need to) and unplug completely.

Whether it’s television news or social media, it’s also best to set overall limits on screen time, especially at night. The blue light from screens can reduce melatonin production, a hormone that makes you feel sleepy.

When to See a Doctor for Anxiety Anxiety becomes a serious problem when it interferes with your everyday life. Worrisome thoughts may prevent you from going to work or school, or cause you to avoid social situations. Anxiety can affect personal relationships with friends and family.

If you’ve had consistent anxiety for six months or more, you should talk to your doctor. They may recommend medication, therapy, or treating your anxiety with natural methods. They may suggest a combination of those things as part of your treatment.

The good news is that there is help for every form of anxiety.


YOUR GUIDE TO WHOLE GRAINS — AND WHY THEY’RE SO GOOD FOR YOU | Matthew Kadey, R.D., SilverSneakers

If you’re still mostly a white-bread person, it’s time to make the switch to whole-grain foods. The anti-aging reasons for doing so are hard to argue.

There wasn’t much talk about whole grains versus refined grains back in the day. We ate our Wonder® bread sandwiches for lunch and enjoyed them. But food science has changed a lot over the past few decades. The research is clear that whole grains of all stripes are nutritionally superior to their processed and paler cousins.

If you’ve been slow to make the switch, it’s a great time to hop aboard the whole-grain train. Food companies have been hard at work to make whole-grain products tastier and easier to find. Explore the health benefits — and flavor variety — that comes with adding more whole grains to your daily meals.

What Makes a Whole Grain, Whole

By definition, a grain is considered whole if it still contains the original three parts of the seed:  bran, germ, and endosperm.

With refined grains, like those found in white pasta, white rice, or all-purpose white flour, the bran and germ are stripped away when they are milled. This leaves behind only the starchy endosperm.

Why is that a bad thing? The bran and germ are where most of the fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are found in grains. Those are the components of food that keep us feeling full or help protect us against disease. Many refined grain products are enriched with a handful of nutrients like folate and iron, but that doesn’t replace all the nutrition that is lost.

Dietary guidelines recommend that at least half of our daily grain servings should come from whole sources. But most Americans buy far more packaged food products made with refined grain ingredients than whole grains.

The Many Health Benefits of Whole Grains

Making the switch from refined grains to whole ones is a smart move for healthier living — even if you still eat some refined grains from time to time. Their impressive mix of nutrients have been shown to have a positive impact on the health conditions below:

  • Heart Health
    A study of more than a million people in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming whole grains instead of refined ones can lower the risk for heart disease and death by all causes.
  • Diabetes
    Researchers at Harvard University discovered that eating more whole-grain foods, such as whole-grain breads and breakfast cereals, was significantly associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Cancer
    A diet that contains a larger proportion of whole grains can slash the risk for certain cancers, including colorectal and pancreatic, according to a study published in the journal
  • Belly Fat
    Research in the Journal of Nutrition found that older adults who consumed at least three servings of whole grains every day accumulated less belly fat than their peers who chose more foods that contained refined grains. Excess weight in the middle is linked to a higher risk of health problems including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Which foods are whole grain?

There are a lot more of them than you probably realize. Expanding the variety of whole grains in your diet can expose you to a broader spectrum of nutrients. It also adds excitement to your meals through different colors, textures, shapes, and flavors. Use this list to add some new ones to your dietary repertoire:

  • Amaranth
  • Barley
  • Black (Forbidden) Rice
  • Brown Rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgur
  • Einkorn
  • Farro
  • Freekeh
  • Kamut
  • Kaniwa
  • Millet
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Rye
  • Sorghum
  • Spelt
  • Teff
  • Triticale
  • Wheat berries
  • Wild Rice

Where should I buy them?

Most grocery stores carry a large variety of whole grains, both flours and intact grains. But if there is a bulk-food store in your area, that can be an affordable place to buy the exact amount you need.

Whole grains stay fresh much longer than produce, but they’re still better when they haven’t lived in your pantry for too long. That’s because their outer layer, known as the germ, contains oils that go rancid over time. Most whole grains keep for about six months. Whole-grain flours last for about half that time but storing them in the refrigerator or freezer will extend that by a month or two.

How do I know of a product is made with whole grains?

Don’t assume that a product is 100% whole grain until you investigate the product label. Many people are fooled into buying refined grains in disguise.

Loafs touting things like “made with whole grains,” “7-grain,” “multi-grain” or “rye” are often made mostly with nutritionally inferior refined flour. Manufacturers may include some whole grains like whole wheat or whole rye flour in the mix, but the amount added is anyone’s guess.

The first item listed on the ingredient label should be a whole grain rather than “wheat flour” or “enriched flour.” That’s just another way of saying refined white flour. Ingredients are ordered from highest to lowest amounts in the package. Products with the FDA regulated label “100% whole grain” cannot include any refined flour.

Are any of the whole grains better for me than others?

While whole grains are all good for you, try to eat ones that are still wholly intact. They are even less processed and require more chewing and effort from the digestive system to break down. Research says this may improve your blood sugar levels.

When you’re able, choose wheat berries (which look similar to brown rice) instead of whole wheat bread, steel-cut oats instead of rolled oats, and buckwheat groats (the hulled seed of buckwheat plant) instead of buckwheat flour pancakes.

How can I boost my whole grain intake?

There are seemingly endless and tasty ways to accomplish this nutritional goal. Here’s how to easily incorporate them into your regular mix of meals:

  • Use brown rice or quinoa in stir-fries.
  • Add barley or spelt berries to soups.
  • Try a side of farro or freekeh instead of potatoes.
  • Tuck into a bowl of steel-cut oat porridge for breakfast.
  • Upgrade your salads with cooked whole grains like wheat berries, sorghum, wild rice, quinoa, or millet.
  • Make homemade veggie burgers with bulgur.
  • Fill tacos and burritos with brown rice or farro.
  • Substitute whole grain flours while baking. You can usually substitute 1/3 to 1/2 of the white flour in a recipe with whole wheat without any discernable difference.

What recipes should I try?

If you’re looking to make a whole-grain swap for tonight’s dinner, here are two great recipes that deliciously fit the bill.

Chicken Quinoa Soup

Makes 4 Servings

  • 2 teaspoons oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced
  • 1 cup sliced brown mushrooms
  • 2 sliced celery stalks
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan; cook onion, carrots, and salt for 6 minutes.
  2. Add chicken thighs, mushrooms, celery, and garlic; cook 5 minutes more.
  3. Add broth, 1 cup water, quinoa, Italian seasoning, chili flakes, and black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes.
  4. Garnish with parsley.

Pumpkin Apple Baked Oatmeal

Makes 6 Servings

  • 1 cup steel-cut oats
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats or rye flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, walnuts or pecans
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup pure pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup milk of choice
  • 4 apples, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 cups blueberries
  1. Cover steel-cut oats with water and let soak for at least 4 hours. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×13-inch casserole pan.
  2. Drain steel-cut oats and stir together with rolled oats, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, cardamom, salt, and nuts together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and pumpkin. Add liquid mixture to oats and gently mix until everything is moist.
  3. Place apple slices in the bottom of the baking dish and drizzle on maple syrup and sprinkle on 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and ginger powder. Top with oat mixture. Bake until topping is set, about 35 minutes.
  4. Serve wedges warm topped with yogurt and blueberries.

Recipes by Matthew Kadey, R.D.


GET ENOUGH SLEEP | Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

It’s important to get enough sleep. Sleep helps keep your mind and body healthy.

Why is getting enough sleep important?

Getting enough sleep has many benefits. It can help you:

  • Get sick less often
  • Stay at a healthy weight
  • Lower your risk for serious health problems, like diabetes and heart disease
  • Reduce stress and improve your mood
  • Think more clearly and do better in school and at work
  • Get along better with people
  • Make good decisions and avoid injuries — for example, drowsy drivers cause thousands of car accidents every year

How much sleep do I need? Most adults need 7 or more hours of good-quality sleep on a regular schedule each night. Getting enough sleep isn’t only about total hours of sleep. It’s also important to get good-quality sleep on a regular schedule so you feel rested when you wake up.

How much sleep do children need?

Kids need even more sleep than adults:

  • Teens need 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night
  • School-aged children need 9 to 12 hours of sleep each night
  • Preschoolers need to sleep between 10 and 13 hours a day (including naps)
  • Toddlers need to sleep between 11 and 14 hours a day (including naps)
  • Babies need to sleep between 12 and 16 hours a day (including naps)
  • Newborns need to sleep between 14 and 17 hours a day

Does it matter when I sleep?

Yes. Your body sets your “biological clock” according to the pattern of daylight where you live. This helps you naturally get sleepy at night and stay alert during the day.If you have to work at night and sleep during the day, you may have trouble getting enough sleep. It can also be hard to sleep when you travel to a different time zone.Get sleep tips to help you:

Take Action 

Daytime Habits Making small changes to your daily routine can help you get the sleep you need.

Change what you do during the day.

  • Try to spend some time outdoors in the daylight — earlier in the day is best
  • Plan your physical activity for earlier in the day, not right before you go to bed
  • Stay away from caffeine (including coffee, tea, and soda) late in the day
  • If you have trouble sleeping at night, limit daytime naps to 20 minutes or less
  • If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation (less than 1 drink in a day for women and less than 2 drinks in a day for men) — alcohol can keep you from sleeping well
  • Don’t eat a big meal close to bedtime
  • If you smoke, make a plan to quit — the nicotine in cigarettes can make it harder for you to sleep

Nighttime Habits

Create a good sleep environment.

  • Make sure your bedroom is dark — if there are streetlights near your window, try putting up light-blocking curtains
  • Keep your bedroom quiet
  • Consider keeping electronic devices — like TVs, computers, and smartphones — out of your bedroom

Set a bedtime routine.

  • Go to bed at the same time every night
  • Try to get the same amount of sleep each night
  • Avoid eating, talking on the phone, or reading in bed
  • Avoid using computers or smartphones, watching TV, or playing video games at bedtime
  • If you find yourself up at night worrying about things, use these tips to help manage stress

If you’re still awake after staying in bed for more than 20 minutes, get up. Do something relaxing, like reading or meditating, until you feel sleepy.

Why can’t I fall asleep? Many things can make it harder for you to sleep, including:

  • Stress or anxiety
  • Pain
  • Certain health conditions, like heartburn or asthma
  • Some medicines
  • Caffeine (usually from coffee, tea, and soda)
  • Alcohol and other drugs
  • Untreated sleep disorders, like sleep apnea or insomnia

If you’re having trouble sleeping, try making changes to your routine to get the sleep you need. You may want to:

  • Change what you do during the day — for example, get your physical activity in the morning instead of at night
  • Create a comfortable sleep environment — for example, make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet
  • Set a bedtime routine — for example, go to bed at the same time every night

If you’re concerned about your sleep, see a doctor.

Talk with a doctor or nurse if you have any of the following signs of a sleep disorder:

  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Still feeling tired after a good night’s sleep
  • Sleepiness during the day that makes it difficult to do everyday activities, like driving or concentrating at work
  • Frequent loud snoring
  • Pauses in breathing or gasping while sleeping
  • Tingling or crawling feelings in your legs or arms at night that feel better when you move or massage the area
  • Trouble staying awake during the day
  • Feeling like it’s hard to move when you first wake up

Even if you don’t have these problems, talk with a doctor if you feel like you often have trouble sleeping. Keep a sleep diary [PDF – 53 KB]This link is external to health.gov. for a week and share it with your doctor. A doctor can suggest different sleep routines or medicines to treat sleep disorders. Talk with a doctor before trying over-the-counter sleep medicine.

RETHINKING THE GOAL OF 10,000 STEPS A DAY | Amanda Loudin, webmd.com

Brian Smith has always been an active guy. The 32-year-old editor from Santa Fe, NM , enjoys hiking, mountain biking, skiing – anything outdoors, and you can probably count him in. But when his daughter was born about 6 months ago, time for all those activities shrank, and Smith found himself left with the easiest, most convenient type of exercise available to him: walking.

What Smith has found interesting is that he feels almost as fit and healthy as a walker as he does with his other activities. And because he wears a smartwatch, he’s aware of his step count, which is typically around 8,500 per day. Turns out, that number is probably spot-on for decreasing the rates of death from all causes.

This flies in the face of what the world – and even the CDC – has long considered the “magic number” for daily steps: 10,000. Fitness trackers have embraced that number, and users have worked hard to strive for it. As it turns out, that 10,000-step goal is rather arbitrary and actually dates back to one of the first pedometers ever made, which hails from Japan. Translated, that pedometer’s name was “10,000 Steps.” A recent study suggests the actual goal might be lower – ideally somewhere in the 8,000-step range, done a few times per week. Smith may be onto something.

The study, which appeared in JAMA Network Open, collected data from over 3,100 people for a week’s worth of activity in 2005 and 2006, then followed their mortality data in 2019. The results reject the idea that 10,000 daily steps are necessary to lower deaths caused by trouble with your heart and blood vessels and deaths from other causes. Instead, the authors found that people in the study who walked at least 8,000 steps 1 to 2 days per week were less likely to die within 10 years. After that marker, the benefits largely hit a plateau.

“Regular walking of any distance has multiple health benefits,” said Karla Robinson, MD, medical editor at GoodRx. A report in JAMA Internal Medicine found that walking a minimum of 4,400 steps a day for older adults had significant health benefits when compared to those who walked fewer than 4,400 steps per day. Health benefits increase with the number of steps you take up until you hit about 7,500 steps per day, she said.

What to Do With the Data

All this data can be confusing, especially if you’re someone who has been aiming for the 10,000-step goal. There’s no need to back off that number if it’s something you enjoy and can fit in. But the takeaway from the latest research is good news for those who might find the bigger step counts challenging.

“Any amount of walking is beneficial, and if you are averaging 10,000 steps or more a day, don’t feel the need to reduce that number,” Robinson said. “If you are looking for a step goal to maximize health benefits, anything around 8,000 steps is a great benchmark.”

Renee Deehan, PhD, vice president of science and artificial intelligence at InsideTracker, a personalized wellness platform, agrees with that advice. The company recently did its own analysis of 22 published papers evaluating the impact of step count on mortality and/or metabolic syndrome/type 2 diabetes. They found that most studies reported a dose-dependent effect with respect to lowering deaths from all causes.

“That is, the more steps per day you take are associated with an increasingly lower risk,” Deehan said. “Most of the studies indicated a plateau, however, where reductions stabilized.”

From InsideTracker’s perspective, then, “Optimally, you could continue to shoot for 10,000 steps a day, but if you can get to 7,000, that’s a great goal,” she said. “The key piece is making movement a habit and a regular part of the day.”

This might look like sneaking in steps throughout the day – for some people, finding a dedicated 30 to 60 minutes for exercise each day can be difficult. “Take the stairs, or log off a meeting 5 minutes early a few times a day to jaunt around the kitchen or the block,” Deehan suggested. “That adds up over the weeks, months, and years.”

If you’re wondering how vigorous your walking needs to be, Robinson said that a pace of about 3 to 4 miles per hour will drive the greatest health benefits, but even a leisurely stroll will do the trick. “Walking won’t get your heart rate up particularly high,” she said. “However, it is a great low-impact way to burn calories and can also help lower your blood pressure, improve your blood sugars, and promote heart health.”


7 NUTRITIONIST-APPROVED FOODS TO BOOST YOUR MOOD | Matthew Kadey, R.D., SilverSneakers 

What you put in your mouth matters greatly to mental health. Learn how to tweak your diet with these good-mood foods.Few people have any doubt that the quality of your diet has a direct impact on physical health. But what you eat and how well your brain works are also closely connected. Nutritional psychiatry is a growing field that investigates how the foods you choose impact your mental well-being.Research shows that older people who follow a healthier diet are nearly 40% less likely to have major depressive episodes than those who eat much worse. Nutritional deficiencies have been linked to depression in other research too. This is important information to know, since seniors appear to be more likely to suffer from this problem. Over time, depression can have significant impacts on your health and longevity.Like any other body part, our brains are built out of the food we eat. If you consistently feel down in the dumps — to the point where it impacts your life — it might be worth considering what you put on your plate. Here are the good-mood foods that can help you feel brighter.Fruit Blueberries or strawberries? Apples or pears? No matter what your preference, eating plenty of fruit can likely help boost your mental health. A study in the British Journal of Nutrition found that a higher intake of fruit was associated with fewer symptoms of depression and a better sense of well-being. In contrast, frequently eating savory snacks was linked to higher rates of both anxiety and depression.While scientists aren’t yet certain how eating extra servings of fruit can help with mood, it could have to do with the bounty of antioxidant compounds they contain which work to improve brain health.Try this: Up your glee factor by eating at least 2 cups of fruit a day.Mushrooms Nutrition experts are increasingly touting mushrooms for their various health benefits — including mental wellness. A recent study of more than 24,000 U.S. adults found that mushroom consumption was associated with a lower risk of depression. This was after factoring in major risk factors, including demographics, health, and medications.The researchers found that mushrooms contain a compound called ergothioneine, which is an antioxidant that may protect against brain cell damage and reduce symptoms of depression.We still don’t know how many mushrooms you need to eat to have a benefit and which types are most effective, but button (white) and shiitake mushrooms add low-calorie flavor to meals. Be generous with them in the kitchen to help lift your spirits.

Try this: Aim to eat 2 to 3 cups of feel-good mushrooms weekly

Rainbow Trout This cold-water fish is among the best dietary sources of vitamin B12, a nutrient that can be a mood-booster. Vitamin B12 is stored in the liver and plays a major role in cognitive functioning. Adults aged 50 and older with low vitamin B12 levels were at greater risk for depression, found one recent study.

Older people are more likely to develop vitamin B12 deficiencies because the nutrient is absorbed from food by stomach acid. As you age, stomach-acid production starts to decline. That’s why it is important to get tested for a vitamin B12 deficiency and eat enough foods that provide a good daily dose. A 3-ounce serving of trout supplies more than the daily requirement for vitamin B12.

As a bonus, it’s also a good source of omega-3 fat which could also help fend off depression. Salmon, tuna, sardines, and shellfish including mussels and oysters are other seafood options that are bursting with feel-good vitamin B12.

Try this: Help boost your outlook by eating at least 3 servings of seafood like trout weekly

Pepitas Spanish for “little seeds of squash,” pepitas are a variety of green-hued pumpkin seeds that are an excellent source of magnesium. Several studies suggest that a greater dietary intake of magnesium can lower the chances of suffering from depression.

This mineral has an important impact on brain chemistry and hormonal balance, both of which play a role in keeping you from feeling like the world is shrinking in on you. Most Americans don’t nearly eat enough magnesium, which is also found in other seeds, beans, lentils, and whole grains. Pepitas are great sprinkled over yogurt, oatmeal, salads, or soups.

Try this: Feel better with about 2 tablespoons each day

Yogurt If you want to look on the bright side more often, it’s worth buying yogurt at the grocery store. A investigation in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience found that people who had a more robust population of gut microbes tended to have fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression. Yogurt and other fermented foods like kefir, miso, and sauerkraut, contain beneficial gut microbes like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium that are good for the brain.

It’s not exactly clear how that works, but these microorganisms may affect mood by sending signals to the brain. They also can help regulate mood hormones.

Try this: Enjoy a cup serving of yogurt daily and 3 to 5 servings of other fermented foods weekly.

Walnuts Are you nuts for nuts? It may be giving your outlook a big assist. According to a study of more than 26,000 people published in the journal Nutrients, people who regularly ate nuts — particularly walnuts — were found to exhibit fewer depressive symptoms, less hopelessness, and greater energy than people who didn’t eat them. Walnuts also contain omega-3 fatty acids that help make them a crunchy food for a better mood.

Try this: Perk up with 1 ounce of walnuts a day.

Green Tea This ancient beverage may hold the answer to fending off modern-day unhappiness. A report in Public Health Nutrition showed that those who sipped four or more cups of green tea each day were 51% less likely to feel down in the dumps.

There could be a couple of factors at play here. Tea, especially the green variety, provides antioxidants that improve brain functioning and lessen levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Plus, when you are drinking multiple cups of tea every day, there is less opportunity to guzzle sugary drinks, which are linked to a greater chance of developing depression or anxiety.

To reap the most mood-improving benefits, use a loose-leaf green tea and steep it in warm water for a few minutes. That helps it release its beneficial compounds.

Try this: Sip and smile with 2 to 4 cups daily


THE JCC CAN HELP YOU REACH YOUR WELLNESS AND FITNESS GOALS! | Kelly Hont, JCC Membership and DEKA Director, On Your Mark Fitness

As we welcome the New Year, many of us will set goals or resolutions to meet a goal. Often, these goals are health or fitness related. We know (and love) to see the influx of new people coming into the fitness center or some faces we haven’t seen in a while coming back in to start working to reach their goal.

We want to remind everyone – new and returning members – of the wide range of services we offer TO HELP YOU REACH YOUR GOAL!

All members are eligible for the following FREE services:

  1. Fitness Assessment! At this one-hour meeting with a JCC certified personal trainer, you will discuss your wellness and fitness goal, do a 15-minute workout and get a report from the STYKU, a 3D body scan that can measure shape, body mass and composition and give insights to health risks. The JCC personal trainers will come up with a fitness plan tailored to help you meet and maintain your wellness and fitness goals. You can sign up for your free assessment HERE.
  2. Swim Assessment! A swim assessment is a 15-20 minute appointment with one of our certified swim instructors that can identify a host of needs. Whether you are interested in finding what Group Level would best suit your children, or seeking ways to improve your own swimming technique, our swim assessment is here to help. Contact Anna Watterson at [email protected] to set an appointment.
  3. Group Exercise Introduction! Interested in Group Exercise classes but unsure of where to start? Sit down with one of our certified fitness instructors and build a schedule tailored to your interests and goals! Go over items such as: What classes require, how to balance cardio and strength training, level of intensity and which instructors tell the funniest jokes. Contact Jennifer Goldston at [email protected] to get started.

What else? The JCC offers a variety of fitness and recreation for all ages – you can read more about our programming for all ages in our Program Guide.  With swimming lessons and teams, basketball, sports of all sorts, dance and so much more, you will be sure to find a program to keep yourself and everyone in your family moving.

Let’s also talk DEKA! Our JCC South Hills location is an affiliate of the Spartan DEKA program; only one of two locations in the greater Pittsburgh area!  What is DEKA? The Greeks were the first on record to gamify and test fitness; the Greek word for 10 is DEKA! It is the decathlon of functional fitness created by SPARTAN. This program is designed for ALL AGES and doesn’t require any specific training or education to complete The DEKA Zones are basic movements for survival because we do them in our everyday life – kneeling, lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, climbing – the list goes on! The challenges and competitions are designed to give you a “mark,” which is your starting point.  The classes we offer 7 days a week are the “in between events” training you to improve your mark. We offer every member 5 free DEKA classes to try the program; you will be hooked after one!

Research has shown when you put an event on the calendar, exercise adherence improves. Our next FREE DEKA challenge will be in March, and we will be hosting our next DEKA Mile on Saturday, April 20th. Mark your calendar: You now have a GOAL and all of the above resources at the JCC to meet your goal! Bring your friends, bring your family, bring your co-workers or show up alone and meet a goal-oriented community to support YOU and work with YOU in meeting your health and fitness goal!


NEW YEAR, NEW YOU: FORMING NEW HABITS | Brittany Reese, registered dietitian, personal trainer, group exercise instructor and food lover

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 the new year? 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: 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!

Good Luck!


8 TIPS FOR CELEBRATING WITHOUT SABOTAGING | Allie Wergin, Mayo Clinic

 

The holidays are a busy time of year and filled with many annual celebrations. For many people, the holidays mean spending with family and friends and celebrate the joys in life. Some even may view this year as an opportunity to make up for canceled or postponed holiday gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gatherings often includes special foods and temptations. But fat and calories can easily add up as you enjoy your favorite traditional holiday foods.

Remember that the holidays don’t need sabotage your healthy diet habits.

Follow these 8 tips to enjoy a healthier holiday season as you celebrate with others:

1. Don’t skip meals. Skipping a meal with the goal of saving calories prior to a holiday event can often backfire and lead to overeating due to ravenous feelings of hunger. Having a filling snack, such as fruit, string cheese, yogurt or a small handful of nuts, can curb your appetite and prevent overeating.

2. Bring your own dish. Ensure at least one nutritious choice is available at potlucks by contributing a healthy dish, such as a fruit or vegetable plate. Make it festive by arranging the ingredients in a holiday design like a wreath or tree.

3. Choose your splurges. Scan the buffet or dinner table and choose a couple holiday favorites to splurge on instead of foods that you can have any other day of the year. Make sure you take time to really taste and enjoy that special treat when you have it.

4. Choose drinks wisely. Stick to calorie-free drinks, such as water, tea or seltzer, instead of high-calorie festive drinks. Alcoholic beverages contribute empty calories and can cause you to make poor judgments with food. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Alternate each alcoholic drink with a glass of water.

5. Visit the people, not the food. Move socializing away from the buffet or appetizer table to prevent mindless eating.

6. Say no to food pushers. Remember that you are in control of what you eat. Be confident, decisive and polite. You should not feel shame with wanting to stick to your goals.

7. Eat until you are satisfied, not stuffed. No one likes that icky, overstuffed feeling after a meal. Eat slowly and check your fullness levels while you’re eating. Remember — there are always leftovers.

8. Don’t feel guilty. If you overindulged, don’t beat yourself up. Just make sure your next meal is healthy and you incorporate exercise into your routine.

Allie Wergin is a registered dietitian in Le Sueur and New Prague, Minnesota.

DOES EXERCISE HAVE TO BE BORING AND BITTER? | Jeffrey Pinkerton, MOSSA

Have you ever wondered, “why is working out is so boring, and well … bluh?” If you have, maybe it’s not your fault. Maybe you’ve been trying exercises that are in fact, so boring. Maybe you need a re-engineered version of exercise that extracts the boredom, removes the bitterness, and leaves you feeling amazing.

“Good For You” Doesn’t Have to Be Bitter.

Do you remember trying Brussels sprouts as a kid? Boiled. Bitter. And bluh. But apparently really good for you, or at least that’s what I was told. Have you tried them recently? They taste amazing, especially grilled or air fried and served with a drizzle of olive oil and a dowsing of Parmesan cheese.  

So, what happened? Did our taste buds really change that much?  

Did We Acquire a Taste for Brussels Sprouts?

No, actually Brussels sprouts changedIn the 1990s Dutch scientist Hans van Doorn identified the chemical cause of the bitter taste and began measuring glucosinolates levels in the most commonly sold sproutsThrough testing, sorting, and cross-pollinating with hundreds of archived varieties, they were able to engineer the bitterness out and now, 30 years later, the milder, better tasting Brussels sprouts business is booming.  

But let’s think back to the original. Really good for you. Tastes pretty terrible. And leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.  

Sounds a lot like exercise. 

It’s Good for You, But It Tastes Terrible. 

What would convince you to try, buy, and even try again “original” Brussels sprouts in the ‘80s? Maybe the promise of health benefits? They are a great source of vitamin K, vitamin C, and folate, rich in antioxidants, may help maintain a healthy blood sugar, may reduce inflammation, could improve bone health, reduce risk of diabetes, lower your risk of heart disease, and improve your skin, improve gut health, and prevent cancer. But they taste terrible. 

 Maybe if the bitterness was…brief? Boil them, so they are easier to eat. Timely, sure, but now they’re bitter and soggy? Yeah, no thanks. 

Could you be convinced by…cheapness? “Here, these taste terrible, but they’re the lowest priced greens in town!” Just a big pile of cheap, bitter Brussels sprouts. 

Or maybe a mantra will make the difference. “This is good for me. It’s miserable, but…this is good for me. This is good for me.”  

Or you can – thank goodness – fast forward to the 2020s and the new and improved Brussels sprouts. 

Why Brussels Sprouts and Exercise? 

For those who have read this far and don’t understand why I am still talking about Brussels sprouts, let me connect the dots. If exercise is really good for you, but tastes pretty terrible, and leaves a bitter taste in your mouth, you won’t do it. At least not for long. But, if you can discover a re-engineered version of exercise, an experience that is so engaging and encouraging and enticing and inclusive and electric, you might get hooked.  

Exercise, Re-engineered. 

We’ve all experienced exercise that, well, leaves a bad taste in our mouths. Why is exercise so boring? Well, because a lot of options are boring, not to mention punishing, solitary, and even intimidating. No need to identify the chemical causes of the bitterness, because it’s something we’ve all choked down. Instead, at MOSSA, we researched the elements that make exercise feel a lot less like a chore, and made it into an experience that’s actually enjoyable. (Trust us, it takes some fresh ingredients!) 

The (Not) Secret Ingredients to Make Exercise Not Terrible. 

Exercise today – great group exercise, specifically – finally feels more like an experience and less like a chore. Research on the power of music, of social connection, and of working out with a group, is overwhelmingly convincing that when people work out together, with a motivating instructor, in sync and in time with amazing music, the act of exercising can be more about the experience and less about the act of doing the exercises.  

According to the Chip and Dan Heath, authors of The Power of Moments, “When we asses our experiences, we don’t average minute-by-minute sensations. Rather, we tend to remember flagship moments: the peaks, the pits, and the transitions.” In fact, they go as far as saying that people will even forget the length of time spent in an experience, a phenomenon called “duration neglect.” People instead focus on the highs, the lows, and how they feel at the end. 

Not All Workouts are the Same. 

Bottom line, a well-designed, thoughtfully crafted, fine-tuned and tested group fitness experience can be instrumental in helping you feel surprisingly successful, create a healthy habit, and thankfully, change negative perceptions of exercise. We love when people try a MOSSA workout – all about motivating music and inclusive coaching, tried and tested movements, and movements for real life – and say at the end, not “Why is working out so boring?” but “Wait, that was…a workout?! That was great. I can’t wait to try it again.”

Wait … Those are Brussels Sprouts?!? 

A few years ago, my wife was planning a dinner side dish. “How about Brussel sprouts?” she asked. “No, I don’t like them,” I said. My suggestion: “How about those miniature artichokes that you made a couple of weeks ago.” “Um, you mean Brussels sprouts, Jeffrey?” Wait, those were…Brussels sprouts? Those were great. Can’t wait to try them again. 

MOSSA’s mission is to inspire people to move. MOSSA provides innovative and inclusive workouts for health clubs and community centers worldwide, including many of JCCPGH’s Group Exercise classes. View our MOSSA Group Exercise classes HERE 


HOW TO STAY ACTIVE IN COLD WEATHER | American Heart Association

When winter blows in, you can pull the blankets over your head and go back to sleep—or you can suit up and head out for an outdoor winter adventure! The American Heart Association offers these tips for working out in the cold of winter.

There’s no reason you need to take a break from physical activity when the temperature drops. In fact, exercising in cooler weather has some distinct advantages over working out in warmer weather.

Tips to Keep in Mind

  1. No heat and humidity to deal with. Winter’s chill might even make you feel awake and invigorated.
  2. You may be able to work out longer in cold weather—which means you can burn even more calories.
  3. It’s a great way to take in the sunlight (in small doses). Not only can light improve many people’s moods, it also helps you get some vitamin D.
  4. Exercise boosts your immunity during cold and flu season. Just a few minutes a day can help prevent simple bacterial and viral infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Try these outdoor activities:

  • Brisk walking or hiking
  • Jogging or running
  • Raking leaves
  • Shoveling snow
  • Ice skating
  • Sledding
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Snowshoeing

Stay Warm, Stay Safe

Staying warm and dry when heading out to exercise in cold weather is all about layers. A little preparation can keep you safe from cold weather hazards like hypothermia and frostbite.

Cold temperatures, strong winds and damp conditions (like rain and snow) steal your body heat. For example, according to the National Weather Service, a 30-degree day with 30-mile-an-hour wind feels like about 15 degrees. And if you get wet (from rain, snow or perspiration) that effect is only magnified. That’s why layers of clothing are so important. They help trap the heat and form a kind of insulation against the elements.

Resist your instinct to start layering with cotton. Once cotton becomes wet with sweat or snow, the moisture is trapped and will actually make you feel colder (and heavier). For your first layer, you want something that pulls moisture away from your skin, like the moisture wicking fabrics used in high-performance sportswear. Next, add a layer of fleece; finally, top with a thin waterproof layer.

Know the Signs

Hypothermia means the body temperature has fallen below 35 degrees Celsius or about 95 degrees Fahrenheit. It occurs when your body can’t produce enough energy to keep the internal body temperature warm enough. It can kill you.

Symptoms can include:

  • lack of coordination
  • mental confusion
  • slowed reactions
  • slurred speech
  • cold feet and hands
  • shivering
  • sleepiness

Children and the elderly may be at more risk because they may have limited ability to communicate or impaired mobility. Elderly people may also have lower subcutaneous fat and a diminished ability to sense temperature, so they can suffer hypothermia without knowing they’re in danger.

Stay Hydrated

Don’t forget to drink water when exercising in cooler weather. Thirst isn’t the best indicator that you need to drink.

Bye-Bye, Couch Potato!

If the winter weather prevents you from getting outside, don’t just reach for the remote. Make your time inside count. There are many ways to get physical activity indoors—no gym required. Hand weights or resistance bands are a great addition, but not necessary. You can also wear a heavy backpack to add intensity to your workout.

Try these indoor activities:

  • Home workout circuit
  • Dancing
  • Active housework like vacuuming and sweeping
  • Mall walking
  • Bowling
  • Roller skating
  • Yoga or other fun group classes at your local gym, studio, or community center
  • Stair climbing

Fit in Fitness

Follow the American Heart Association physical activity recommendations of at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week to improve your quality of life. Move more, with more intensity, and sit less.

What if I’m recovering from a cardiac event or stroke?

Some people are afraid to exercise after a heart attack. But regular physical activity can help reduce your chances of having another heart attack.

The AHA published a statement in 2014 that doctors should prescribe exercise to stroke patients since there is strong evidence that physical activity and exercise after stroke can improve cardiovascular fitness, walking ability and upper arm strength.

If you’ve had a heart attack or stroke, talk with your doctor before starting any exercise to be sure you’re following a safe, effective physical activity program.


TIPS FOR MINDFUL EATING DURING THE WINTER HOLIDAYS | Weill Cornell Medicine

Here come the holidays with parties, family gatherings, and food galore. Of course, all the shopping, cooking, and company, can make the holidays stressful, and stress can lead to overeating and unwanted weight gain.

Mindful eating can help, says Rachel Stahl, MS, a registered dietician in the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism. When you are mindful, you are aware and present in the moment. Thoughts may preoccupy you, but you can learn to return to the now. “Eating can be a mindful activity when you become more aware of your physical hunger and satiety, and use all your senses when eating,” Stahl says. This technique can help you manage or even reduce holiday stress, so that you can fully enjoy your favorite foods in moderation. But, Stahl adds, “Mindful eating takes practice and doesn’t happen overnight.”

She offers these tips to get you started:

  • Use small plates. This can help with portion control.
  • Limit distractions. Disconnect from electronics like your phone, computer, or TV. Sit down at the table to be fully present in the meal.
  • Slow down and taste your food. Chew slowly, utilize all your senses, and lower your utensils every few bites. “It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to signal to your brain that it’s full. Giving yourself time to digest a meal will help you notice your body’s signals.”
  • Enjoy meals with others. “Use mealtime as an opportunity to connect with one another. This will help you take breaks between bites, so you don’t eat too quickly.”
  • Don’t skip meals or healthy snacks. ‘Saving’ your appetite for holiday feasts can lead to low blood sugar, intense food cravings, and over-eating.
  • Snack smart. Eat a high-protein snack—a handful of nuts, veggies and hummus, or fruit with 1-2 tablespoons of nut butter–before a holiday party so you’ll be less tempted by all the chips, crackers, and cheese.
  • Eat sitting down. You’re less likely to appreciate and keep track of what you eat if you’re eating on the go.
  • Serve dedicated portions. Eating straight from a bag or box makes it easy to overeat because you can’t see how much you’ve had.
  • Ditch the Clean Plate Club. Wasting food feels bad but stuffing yourself won’t help the hungry.
  • Honor your fullness, even if it means passing up dessert or a second helping of food that someone spent hours preparing. Just politely say, “No, thank you, really.”
  • Allow yourself to enjoy your favorite holiday foods. “Try to let go of any food rules. Shift your mindset from labeling food ‘good’ or ‘bad’ to focusing on having a healthy relationship around food. Practice moderation so that you can eat the foods you enjoy without overeating. Restricting too much can leave you feeling deprived and guilty which can set you up for overeating later on.”
  • Manage stress by meditating, taking short walks, reaching for a warm cup of herbal tea, spending time with people who make you laugh, getting enough sleep, eating a well-balanced diet, staying hydrated, and embracing social support. “For some people, high levels of stress can increase hormones, notably cortisol, and the “hunger” hormone ghrelin, which are linked to increased appetite. Stress can contribute to cravings that lead us to crave more foods high in fat, sugar, or both.”
  • Dump New Year’s Diet Resolutions. “Instead of thinking, ‘I’ll just eat whatever I want during the holidays,’ plan ahead before the holidays by adding more exercise, eating a well-balanced diet (no “fad” or “crash diets” or juice cleanses) and approaching holiday meals in a more balanced way.” After the holidays, don’t try to lose a lot of weight fast. “It’s better to lose weight at a slow, steady pace, 1–2 pounds per week. People who lose weight slowly are more likely to keep it off long-term.”

6 WAYS TO EAT HEALTHIER AT THANKSGIVING DINNER | Jesse Hirsch, Consumers Reports

It’s easy to boost the nutrition and healthfulness of this traditional meal

8 COMMON NUTRITION MYTHS—BUSTED! | Matthew Kadey, R.D., SilverSneakers

A registered dietitian shares the myths about nutrition and eating that you shouldn’t believe.

The best way to eat healthy is a hotly contested topic, and unfortunately the internet is full of misinformation. It can be confusing to tell what’s true and what isn’t, and false theories that were previously passed through word-of-mouth now spread like wildfire on social media.

Popular nutrition myths can impact your food choices and make eating healthfully seem harder than it needs to be. You’ve likely heard most of these common food and nutrition misconceptions repeated at one time or another. Let’s set the record straight.

Myth #1: Fat-Free or Low-Fat Is Better Than Full Fat Fat was once the villain, but nutrition experts have rethought that idea. When you avoid eating fat, you miss out on foods that help keep you feeling full. Plus, low-fat foods can backfire: They often are high in sugar and sodium to make up for the lack of texture and flavor that happens when fat is removed from food. So, they’re not necessarily healthier, and they may not save you any calories either.

Peanut butter is a good example. Many reduced-fat versions of this nut butter replace some of the healthy unsaturated fat found in peanuts with not-so-healthy sugar. Fat-free salad dressing is problematic too. It won’t increase your absorption of important fat-soluble nutrients and antioxidants like vitamin K and beta-carotene that are found in the vegetables in your salad. And an argument can be made that it’s better to enjoy a plain version of full-fat yogurt instead of the same amount of a high-sugar, fat-free one. Recent research is questioning the link between dairy fat and heart disease, and there is mounting evidence that added sugar harms your health.

If you’ve avoided fat for years, it may be time to give it a try again. Be sure to read the nutrition label on food packages to see how the calories, sodium and sugar stack up between the non- or lower-fat and original versions.

Myth #2: Fasting Is the Path to Weight Loss Intermittent fasting is a popular eating pattern where you eat during a limited number of hours during the day—and eat nothing the rest of the time. It’s promoted as a better way to drop pounds than cutting back on total daily calories. But it’s effect on weight loss is smaller than you would think.

Studies show that intermittent calorie restriction doesn’t necessarily lead to more weight loss than a diet where you eat when you want to—as long as your calorie intake is controlled to a level that promotes a drop in body weight. For the most part, calories are calories no matter when you eat them.

There is more than one way to eat for a slimmer body, and skipping meals isn’t necessary. What’s most important is that you determine what your overall calorie intake should be to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.

Myth #3: Natural Sweeteners Are Healthier Than Sugar Most so-called “natural sweeteners” like honey, maple syrup, and coconut sugar are marketed as being more nutritious than high fructose corn syrup and white sugar. This leaves people thinking they can use more of it without the health risks.

That isn’t true: The nutritional difference between these sweeteners is less than you want it to be.

Sweeteners like honey and maple syrup do contain some nutrients and antioxidants, but not enough to contribute to your nutritional needs. Unless you consume large amounts, which would be a bad idea. Honey and maple syrup contain slightly more calories than granulated sugars. Honey has 64 calories in a tablespoon serving, maple syrup has 52, and white sugar has 49. And their impact on your health may be very similar.

One study in the Journal of Nutrition discovered that when consumed in the same amounts, honey, high fructose corn syrup, and regular sugar can result in the same detrimental metabolic effects that may raise heart disease risk.

All sweeteners should be used with restraint. Use just enough to add a touch of sweetness to foods, but not so much where it becomes problematic. Make it a goal to limit all added sweeteners in your diet instead of just zeroing in on the ones that get the worst publicity.

Myth #4: White Poultry Meat Is Better for You Than Dark Meat This idea is completely without merit. What gives dark chicken or turkey meat their darker appearance is the presence of high amounts of a protein called myoglobin, which provides oxygen to your muscles. Since chickens and turkeys walk and don’t fly, their thigh meat is saturated with myoglobin. The breast meat is paler due to lower levels of this compound.

Ounce for ounce, white meat like chicken breasts has nearly the same calories and just one fewer gram of fat as chicken thighs. Hardly worth losing sleep over. Dark meat also contains just as much protein and even more zinc, iron, and B vitamins. Plus, you get the extra juicy taste and a lower price.

One caveat though: Remove the skin after cooking, since it contains a significant amount of unhealthy saturated fat.

Myth #5: Eating More Often Boosts Metabolism Unfortunately for grazers who want to lose weight, there is little scientific evidence that this is true. Yes, there is a temporary uptick in your metabolic rate when your body is digesting and processing food. But it’s not enough to have much of an impact on body weight. The evidence shows that given an equal amount of daily calories, the number of meals makes no significant difference in fat loss.

In other words, how often you eat has less effect on your weight than your total daily calorie intake. For some, spreading meals and snacks throughout the day reduces hunger and overeating. If that’s the case for you, it is a good idea to eat this way. But if you are someone who has a hard time with portion control, eating less frequently may make it easier for you to eat less.

Myth #6: Gluten Is Bad News Everyone seems to be beating up on gluten these days. So what is it? Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley, and it is found in many different foods like breads and pasta.

Many people blame gluten for inflammation, digestive problems, brain fog, and a host of other ills. But many people who avoid it don’t need to be. Research in the journal Digestion found that among people who believed they were sensitive to gluten, 86% could eat it just fine without health issues.

Unless you have celiac disease, which is an illness caused by an immune reaction to eating gluten—or a diagnosed non-celiac gluten sensitivity—you can continue to cook and eat foods that contain gluten, such as your whole-grain morning toast.

If you unnecessarily replace all your conventional bread, pasta, and baked goods with gluten-free alternatives, you’d see a spike in your grocery bill without doing much to improve the nutritional quality of your diet. Many packaged gluten-free products are less nutritious, not more.

Myth #7: Plant-Based Milk Is Healthier Than Dairy Milk There are dozens of different milk options available out there — from regular old cow’s milk to soy, pea, oat, almond, and seemingly everything in between. (Learn more about five common types of milk here.)

Often, plant-based milks are touted as healthier options, but this is rarely the case. Except for soy and pea, plant-based milks rarely contain anywhere close to the amount of protein found in dairy milk.

For instance, a cup of almond milk has only a single gram of protein compared to the 8 grams in cow’s milk. Also, many plant-based milks don’t contain important nutrients like vitamin D, vitamin B12, and calcium you get from dairy milk. Some producers fortify their plant milk with those nutrients. But plant-based milks, if they’re not marked “unsweetened,” can also have troubling amounts of added sugar.

Despite what you may have heard, there is little evidence to show that consuming dairy can cause inflammation or heart disease. Ultimately, the milk you choose comes down to personal choice. Plant-based milks are a good option for those who are lactose intolerant or who eat a plant-only diet. But they are largely undeserving of their health halo, and you’ll need to consume more protein and nutrients elsewhere in your meals.

Myth #8: Don’t Eat at Night

The popular idea is that if you eat after sunset, you’ll be more likely to gain weight and ruin your sleep. But eating food late at night does not make your body store more fat—unless you are consuming more calories than you’ve burned for the day.

It’s fairly simple math: If you have already met your caloric needs then, yes, the calories you consume later in the day can make you gain weight.

Here are the real problems with late-night eating:

  • You may choose less healthy foods at this time, like chips, ice cream, and baked goods.
  • You may be eating emotionally or mindlessly, and not because you’re hungry.

As for messing with your sleep, there isn’t much research to prove that. We all likely have individual responses to this. Some people may be able to eat a big bowl of food at night and still quickly zonk out, while others need more digestion time to sleep well. If you decide to eat at night, it’s important to make healthier choices and not mindlessly snack in front of the television.


DO YOU HAVE EXERCISER IMPOSTER SYNDROME? | Cathy Spencer Browning, MOSSA

I’m not fit enough for the gym. I’ve never been good at exercise. I am too uncoordinated and unathletic. Have you ever said it? If so, you may be experiencing what I call exerciser imposter syndrome. It’s that feeling of doubting your abilities to even begin, never mind making exercise a regular part of your life, improving your fitness, gaining coordination, and learning to enjoy exercise.

And it’s so common! People think exercise has some sort of prerequisites, and that thinking becomes a barrier that stops them from even trying.

To overcome this inertia, we need to embrace the words of Albert Einstein: “Nothing happens until something moves.” So, how can we move past the doubt and hesitation?

Move 1: Change the semantics. Be a “mover.”

Instead of labeling yourself as an “exerciser” with all the preconceived notions and expectations that come with it, consider identifying as a “mover.” We are all born to move, and throughout our early years, we skipped, ran, and jumped with joy. Being a mover means recognizing the importance and benefits of simply moving our bodies. It’s not just about exercising for the sake of fitness; it’s about moving for overall wellness and the health of our bodies. Whether it’s breaking a sweat, lifting things, going for a walk, stretching, or even correcting our sedentary postures, being a mover means understanding that a body in motion stays in motion.

Okay, so now you’re a mover. What’s next?

Move 2: Change your expectations. Accept being a novice mover.

You might think you lack coordination, skill, flexibility, or strength. But here’s the thing: it’s okay to be a novice who is learning a new skill – that of becoming a regular mover. Imagine teaching someone who is learning to bake, a skill you’ve mastered. You would emphasize the importance of practice, starting slow, making mistakes as part of the learning process, and gradually improving through repetition. The same applies to learning or re-learning how to move. Every step you take, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction toward better physical and mental health and improved self-esteem.

Okay, so now you’re a novice mover. What’s next?

Move 3: Change your self-talk. Practice self-compassion. 

Self-compassion is simply about being kind and understanding toward yourself. When you make mistakes, feel inadequate, or struggle with a new skill, it’s important to offer yourself support and encouragement instead of being overly self-critical. Can you apply this same approach to learning how to be a mover? Can you be empathetic toward yourself as you embark on this journey of acquiring a new skill? Rather than saying I’m hopeless at this, you say, I am learning how to do this. Remember, self-compassion plays a crucial role in fostering growth and progress.

So, let’s start embracing the mindset of a mover, accepting our novice status, and practicing self-compassion as we embark on this journey of becoming a healthier and more active versions of ourselves.

Move 4: Change your life. Start simply and simply start! 

Here’s my final piece of advice: start simply, and simply start! Let’s go back to the baking analogy. If I were teaching someone to bake, I wouldn’t start with a complex Croquembouche; instead, we would begin with a simple vanilla cake. Similarly, when it comes to incorporating movement into your life, start by scheduling just 10 minutes each day for movement.

How can you move? Any way you want! Take a walk, dance, climb stairs, or try the MOSSA 10-Minute Workouts specifically designed for movers like yourself. Then, keep track of your progress. Each day you move, mark it with a big checkmark somewhere visible. As you collect more and more checkmarks, you’ll gradually transform into a mover, steadily progressing from a novice to an advanced beginner, a competent individual, and eventually an expert! Remember, these stages may look different for each of us, and that’s perfectly okay.

So, start with simplicity, allocate 10 minutes each day, move in a way that feels good to you, track your progress, and watch yourself grow into the mover you aspire to be, who will very likely inspire others to move past the common “impostor” feeling, move past their perceived limitations, and move for life.

MOSSA’s mission is to inspire people to move. We create and deliver innovative and inclusive workouts for health clubs and community centers – including the JCC of Greater Pittsburgh – and for the home user.


10 METABOLISM-BOOSTING FOODS TO WORK INTO YOUR DIET | UPMC Health Beat

Many different factors can affect your metabolism — the process by which your body converts food and drink into energy. Diet itself is one factor. Certain foods and drinks take longer to break down than others, burning more calories in the process.

No one food will completely turbocharge your metabolism. But many simple foods can play a small role in encouraging metabolism. Combining some of these foods with other factors like exercise and sleep can help your metabolism.

“There are no magic bullet kinds of foods,” says Megan Klucinec, bariatric lifestyle program coordinator, UPMC. “We believe that foods can fit into a healthy meal plan, but it often comes down to moderation, portion sizing, and balance.”

What Is Metabolism? Metabolism is the natural process by which our body turns our food and drink into the energy our body needs to run. That includes functions like our heartbeat and breathing. Metabolism is going on at all times, even when we’re sleeping.

Your basal metabolic rate is the amount of energy your body expends while at rest. Different people have different metabolic rates. Many different factors can cause a metabolic speed up or slow down, including:

  • Age
  • Biological sex
  • Body composition
  • Body size
  • Diet
  • Genetics
  • Health conditions
  • Muscle mass
  • Physical activity

Although some people link metabolism to weight gain and weight loss, slow metabolism is not usually to blame for weight gain. Your diet and physical activity play a larger role in that.

10 Foods That Can Promote Metabolism

Diet can play a part in your metabolism. However, it’s not the only factor — and it’s far from the biggest. So, though some foods may promote metabolism more than others, they’re not going to magically make your metabolic rate faster.

“Sometimes we think there’s specific foods or beverages that can rev up your metabolism, and some foods really do take more time to digest than others,” Klucinec says. “That can slightly increase our metabolism, but not by much.

“The foods that I like to encourage or incorporate are more whole foods. They’re more recognizable by the body, they can break down, are not ultra-processed, and will fit into a multitude of healthy meal plans.”

The following are 10 foods or drinks that Klucinec recommends as part of a healthy metabolic diet.

1. Lean proteins (eggs or lean meats)

Your body expends much more energy breaking down proteins than it does carbohydrates and fats. Klucinec says studies have shown people with a higher intake of protein in their diet have a higher metabolic rate.

Consuming protein-rich foods can benefit metabolism. One large egg contains 7 grams of protein. Lean meats like chicken, fish, turkey, and even lean beef — 20% fat content or less — are also good choices.

“Really, having about 60 to 80 grams minimally of protein in a day is what’s recommended,” Klucinec says. “That helps us to feel fuller both when we finish a meal and in between our next meal or snack.”

2. Coffee

The caffeine in coffee is a stimulant, which can help your metabolism, Klucinec says. However, you should limit the number of additives like sugar and creamer, which can pack on the empty calories.

Additionally, increased caffeine intake may negatively impact sleep. Lack of quality sleep may also contribute to weight gain and/or slower weight loss.

3. Green tea/green tea extract

Like coffee, green tea contains caffeine. It also contains compounds known as catechins. Some studies have linked the consumption of catechins to a higher metabolic rate, especially when combined with exercise.

Green tea contains more catechins than other forms of tea. Green tea extract — a concentrated form of green tea that can take the form of a supplement — contains even more catechins.

Like coffee, you should avoid adding too much sugar to green tea because it contains empty calories.

4. Chili peppers

Chili peppers contain a compound called capsaicin, which provides their burning effect. Klucinec says studies have shown capsaicin in a supplemental form can help metabolism. When added to food, it can have the same metabolic benefit and also work as an appetite suppressant.

Klucinec suggests adding chili pepper to vegetables or lean meat to add flavor.

“Why not have your healthy food taste good?” she says.

5. Ginger

Ginger is another metabolism-encouraging food that you can use as a flavor additive to food and drink. Klucinec says adding ginger powder to a hot beverage like tea can increase your metabolic rate. It can also suppress your appetite.

In addition, ginger can affect metabolism by improving digestion. It may even help you feel fuller after meals.

6. Beans/lentils/legumes

Beans, lentils, and legumes are good sources of protein and fiber. The protein takes longer for your body to break down, and you’ll feel fuller for longer.

“Carbohydrates get a bad rap, but when we look at beans and foods like lentils or legumes, that’s a great choice for being a metabolism booster,” Klucinec says. “Having one-third of a cup of beans — you can put that in soup, you can put it in your salad, it could be a bit of a side dish for you. It will help you feel fuller for a longer period of time, so you may not grab for something else to eat.”

Klucinec says to avoid beans with sauces and other accompaniments, like baked beans. But most of these foods — navy beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, and more — have value.

7. Flaxseed

Flaxseed provides proteins and vitamins, along with other health benefits, Klucinec says. Researchers are studying its effects on metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions that can raise your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other problems. It also may help the bacterial profile of the gut, leading to better gut health.

You can add flaxseeds to oatmeal, soup, smoothies, yogurt, and many other foods you already eat.

8. Brazil nuts

Brazil nuts contain selenium, a mineral with many potential health benefits. Selenium can improve the health of your thyroid, which regulates metabolism, and can also boost your immune function. In addition, Brazil nuts are a good source of protein and healthy fats.

Just make sure to watch your portion sizes, Klucinec says.

“Sometimes we like that crunch, but having too many nuts isn’t great for the fat content,” she says. “Thinking about Brazil nuts, what would fill up a small shot glass might be a serving.”

9. Broccoli

Broccoli is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family. Its health benefits include reducing blood fat levels like cholesterol and reducing the risk of some cancers and age-related diseases like dementia. It also contains a compound called glucoraphanin, which showed metabolic benefits in studies involving mice.

“(Glucoraphanin) is helpful for retuning metabolism in particular,” Klucinec says.

10. Spinach and kale

Many different green, leafy vegetables offer metabolic benefits. But you can prepare spinach and kale in many different ways — as kale chips, in smoothies, in side salads, and more. Their high iron content makes them good for growth, development, and metabolism, Klucinec says.

Klucinec suggests pairing green leafy vegetables with foods rich in vitamin C, such as lemons, tomatoes, squash, and more.

“When you have some of those high-iron foods and vitamin C foods together, they taste good, most importantly, but they are good for you,” she says. “It helps with absorption.”

Tips for a More Metabolic-Friendly Diet

You don’t have to completely change your diet right away and start eating solely metabolism-encouraging foods. You can incorporate many of these foods into your current diet. You can also opt for leaner meats for protein, eat beans as a side dish, add chili peppers or ginger for flavoring, or add flaxseeds to yogurt.

“That’s a way to get that in there without making it seem like you’re changing everything all at once,” Klucinec says. “Because making any of these small changes in the right direction is really impactful, and it will help get you on the right step for your journey.”

Klucinec says you should also watch your portion sizes and aim for balance in your diet. Half your plate should consist of fruits and vegetables, while the other half should consist of a lean protein and a healthy carbohydrate. When snacking, have two bites of a protein per one bite of a carbohydrate.

Non-Dietary Metabolic Tips

Your metabolic rate depends on many factors out of your control. Diet is one factor you can control. Other simple things you can do to help your metabolism include:

  • Exercise. Do resistance exercises on two non-consecutive days per week. Examples include weightlifting, resistance bands, swimming, and more. “Just doing that at least two non-consecutive days in a week can help you burn more calories and even be a little more in tune to burn up calories when you’re done exercising for the next 48 hours,” Klucinec says.
  • Hydrate, especially before meals. Drinking water throughout the day can help you feel fuller and less inclined to grab a snack. Drinking an 8-ounce glass of water before a meal can help fill you up.
  • Sleep. Aim for seven to nine hours a night. When your body doesn’t get enough sleep, it releases more cortisol, a hormone that can lead to weight gain.

These factors are important not only for metabolism but for our overall health. Just know that it’s important to have patience — you may not see an impact right away, but you should stick with it. Set reasonable expectations and don’t set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals.

“You’re asking yourself to change habits, and that’s one of the most difficult things you can ever do,” Klucinec says. “There aren’t any quick fixes to that. You might have to start by changing your mind, changing your focus, changing your expectations, being more patient, and giving yourself time.”


HOW EXERCISE CAN BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM | Elizabeth Millard, SilverSneakers

Cold and flu season is here. Could exercise be your secret to staying healthy?

When it comes to bracing for cold and flu season, the tried-and-true advice still holds true: Wash your hands more often, focus on plenty of quality sleep, get a flu shot, eat fruits and vegetables, and make sure you’re hydrated enough.

There’s one more item to add to this prevention list, and that’s exercise.

“The connection between healthy habits, including physical activity and stronger immune function can’t be overstated,” says Vivek Cherian, M.D., a Baltimore-based internal medicine physician. “What you do every day can have a major impact on fighting off viruses and infections, and as with anything in medicine, prevention is the preferred approach.”

With that in mind, here’s a look at how exercise strengthens the immune response, and whether that means you should stay active when you do get sick.

How Exercise Impacts the Immune System A breadth of research links regular physical activity with better immune function, for people of all ages, says Dr. Cherian. For older adults, exercise may even mitigate some age-related changes that tend to lower immunity.

A study in Frontiers in Immunology looked at 29 women over age 65 who took part in a six-week exercise program. When researchers compared before-and-after samples of their immune cells, they found that exercise fired up the immune system by producing more threat-fighting cells.

(A bonus result was improvement in the women’s body composition and overall mobility. Win-win!)

In explaining their findings, the researchers noted that age inevitably brings a decline in immune function. It’s a process called immunosenescence. It makes you more susceptible to colds and flu.

Regular workouts, however, have the power to help slow this process considerably, the study showed. This means you not only have better protection against colds and flu, but also against a wide range of other illnesses.

A 2018 research review focusing on immunosenescence, also published in Frontiers in Immunology, noted that exercise can actually improve the effectiveness of flu vaccines in older adults, since the immune system is more efficient.

Another big bonus: Regular exercise helps flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways. This action cuts your chances of catching a cold or flu. What’s more, the slight rise in body temperature that comes when you exercise may even prevent bacteria from growing in the first place.

3 Tips for Maximizing the Immune-Boosting Benefits of Exercise

To reap the immune-boosting advantages of your workouts, follow these strategies:

Be consistentGetting some physical activity every day can keep the immune system primed and is better than trying to load up all your exercise on the weekend or one day per week.

Move more throughout the day. Although getting to the gym and taking fitness classes can keep you motivated, remember that all movement can count toward your physical activity total — and the more the better.

For example, housework, walking the dog, playing with grandkids, or gardening are all hobbies that keep you active.

Focus on variety. In terms of the best workout for immune system building, the answer is all of them, says Dr. Cherian. From aerobic exercise like stationary cycling and Zumba Gold to strength training with weights or bodyweight exercises, all types of exercise help build up your immunity. Doing a variety of activities also lets you move in more ways — plus, it keeps exercise fresh and interesting.

Choose workouts that make you feel uplifted and empowered, as that reduces stress, adds Jessica Schatz, RYT, a Los Angeles–based yoga teacher. Chronic or even short-term stress has been shown to have a significant and negative effect on immune function, she explains. And physical activity in general tends to be a stress buster.

Schatz says yoga is a good example of how exercise influences immunity because it connects deep breathing — which has been shown to lower the stress response — with poses that build strength and increase mobility and flexibility.

“Even just a few yoga sessions per week can be helpful,” she says. “A regular practice can help with immunity, sleep, and stress, and improving all of those can be powerful.”

Should You Exercise When You’re Sick?

Considering that physical activity provides a boost for immune function, it might seem like getting more exercise when you’re starting to feel sick would be advantageous. But it doesn’t work that way, according to Dr. Cherian.

“If you’re symptomatic, which means you have fever, chills, or respiratory issues, you should refrain from exercising,” he says. “It’s best to wait seven to 10 days before you ease back into your exercise routine. Ultimately, the timeframe will be different for everyone, so it’s important to listen to your body.”

When you do return to exercise, he suggests starting gradually, especially if your symptoms haven’t fully resolved. That doesn’t mean no exercise at all — physical activity like walking or gentle yoga can be helpful for getting you back on track. If you have mild symptoms, you may be able to do more, says Dr. Cherian.

“If you have a runny nose but otherwise feel fine, it’s absolutely okay to resume exercising,” he adds. “If you still have some congestion or shortness of breath, I’d recommend holding off. Bottom line is that if you’re unsure, ask your primary care doctor, especially if your symptoms are lingering after 10 days.”


10 WAYS TO COPE WITH CURRENT WORLD EVENTS | Nilagia McCoy (Boston University SPH’24)

Feelings of powerlessness and uncertainty in response to disturbing current events can be difficult to cope with. While these tips may not directly address the causes of this stress, they can help you manage it and keep going.

1. Limit your intake of news and social media. If you’re feeling distressed by the news, it’s OK to take breaks. If disengaging completely feels like too much, create limits for yourself: set a timer that allows you to engage, but reminds you to stop. Read a book, take a walk, or find some time without media. Remember, taking time for yourself is not selfish.

2. Let your voice be heard. When we feel powerless, it’s important to find ways to have a voice. You could get involved in forms of activism, join organizations, attend events, talk to others about what you value, make a donation, or work to protect the rights of others. Consider how to balance action with rest.

3. Maintain your routine and engage in healthy activities. Try to strike a balance between keeping up with current events and going about your daily life. Basic acts of self-care can make a real difference during times of stress: take breaks, connect with family and friends, take on fewer commitments, engage in spiritual or religious practices, or go for a walk. Find what feels good for you.

4. Practice relaxation. Try self-soothing strategies like meditating, breathing exercises, listening to music, or whatever you find helpful. Give yourself a bit of sympathy, too. Stress can often cause you to underperform. Make sure you set aside time to treat yourself and enjoy some moments of joy.

5. Move your body. When you experience stress, your muscles tense. Practicing movement that releases tension can help you process difficult emotions. Try shaking out parts of your body, gentle stretches, self-massage, or other forms of movement.

6. Recognize your limits. Remember that you may not be as efficient as usual, and you might need more time or help to complete tasks. It’s OK! We’re all human. Just plan accordingly, show yourself kindness, and ask for support when needed.

7. Seek out community. Check-in with your friends or family. Even when you don’t know the “right” thing to say, just being with others during difficult times can be powerful.

8. Acknowledge your feelings. Reactions to events vary from person to person. Some people experience intense feelings while others may not. Allow yourself to feel what you feel without judgment of yourself or others.

9. Remember that self-care and community care are connected. It can be tempting to prioritize activist work over your own self-care, but they are interconnected. Taking time for yourself helps you show up as a kinder and more compassionate person to others, and can refuel your capacity for activism.

10. Reach out if you need additional support. Whether you are seeking information to help yourself or trying to learn more to help someone else in need, The 10.27 Healing Partnership based at the JCC Squirrel Hill is a community resource to help you no matter where you are in your healing process.


ARE FEMALE ATHLETES MORE PRONE TO ACL INJURIES? | Volker Musahl, MD, Orthopaedic Sports Medicine UPMC Health Beat

ACL Injuries in the Female Athlete More women and girls than ever are participating in competitive sports. But emergency department statistics indicate that female athletes are more susceptible to tears of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) than males are.

In fact, female athletes tear their ACLs at an alarmingly higher rate — 2 to 8 times more frequently — than male athletes. For example, according to the National Institutes of Health, the incidence of female to male ACL injuries is 3.5 times greater in basketball and 2.8 times greater in soccer.

How Do ACL Injuries Occur? The ACL is one of the main ligaments that stabilizes the knee joint. It connects the femur (thighbone) to the tibia (shinbone). A non-contact ACL tear usually happens when an athlete makes a rapid but awkward stop in anticipation of a lateral movement.

ACL injuries tend to happen when athletes are decelerating, changing directions, or landing. During these maneuvers, female bodies may move differently than male bodies, putting them at a higher risk of injury.

The hamstring muscles in the back of the leg and the quadricep muscles in the front work together to move the leg. When you bend your leg, the hamstring muscles contract, and the quads relax. Conversely, when you straighten your leg, the quads contract and the hamstring muscles relax.

Female athletes can take steps to strengthen their hamstrings and use different body mechanics to get back to playing after an ACL injury. This is according to Volker Musahl, MD, a world-renowned sports surgeon and chief of the Division of Sports Medicine at UPMC.

The same steps that can help them recover from an ACL injury can also help prevent the injury altogether.

“When I do evaluations through the ACL Program at UPMC Sports Medicine, I ask the athletes to stand up on a box and jump down and land, or jump down, land, pivot, and run,” Dr. Musahl says. “When women and girls jump down, they tend to land knock-kneed with straighter legs, while men and boys land with knees straight out and more bend in the legs. But when female athletes are taught a different way to land on their feet, we can treat the movement that’s putting them at risk.”

How Can Female Athletes Prevent ACL Injuries? One way for female athletes to reduce their risk of ACL tears is to build and maintain leg strength year-round — not just during their sports season. Exercises the UPMC ACL Program recommends include:

  • Quad sets.
  • Straight leg raises.
  • Backward leg raises.
  • Hip abduction.
  • Squats.
  • Wall sits.
  • Reverse lunges.
  • Bridges (short leg and long leg).
  • Planks and side planks

“There’s really nobody who is too young to learn ACL prevention exercises and improved body mechanics,” says Dr. Musahl. “In fact, it would be great if schools would teach these exercises because the younger the person, the more teachable they are.”

Dr. Musahl adds that early sports specialization can increase the risk of girls and women sustaining ACL injuries.

“I always refer to hockey great Wayne Gretzky as a good example of a multisport athlete. He played a lot of different sports when he was young then specialized at an older age and was able to stave off serious injury throughout his professional career,” he adds. “Playing different sports when young diversifies the training of both the muscles and the brain, which helps the athlete grow stronger all over.”

Top 3 Tips for Preventing ACL Injuries There are steps you can take to reduce your risk. Here are Dr. Musahl’s top tips for preventing ACL injury:

  1. Become a multisport athlete.
  2. Respect the three Rs: rest, recovery, rehydration. No one can train seven days a week — not even the pros, so make sure to give your body time to rest and recover. “For example, train three to four days, then rest one day before game day,” Dr. Musahl says. “And make sure to hydrate before and rehydrate after your workouts.”
  3. Enroll in an ACL injury prevention program or go online for a good app“Spend a few minutes per day doing prevention exercises,” he recommends. “The Nordic hamstring curl is a good one, and it can be done with or without a partner.”

The Nordic hamstring curl is an eccentric hamstring curl, which means that the hamstring muscle gets longer but stays active during the exercise.

To do the Nordic curl, kneel down on a mat and have your partner hold your ankles down on the floor. (If doing this curl on your own, put your ankles under a loaded barbell or other immovable object.)

Keeping your body straight, lean forward from the knee (not the hip) toward the floor as close to the floor as you can without using your arms or hands. Move slowly and with control. Only put your hands out in front of you on the floor when you can no longer hold yourself up with your legs.

Then, push yourself back to the starting position and repeat. Count how many you can do and try to add a rep each time you do the exercise.


THE BENEFITS OF KIDS PLAYING BASKETBALL AT A YOUNG AGE | Spalding.com.au

We all know that physical activity is vital for the growth and development of young kids, and team sports such as basketball are extremely beneficial to their health. Not only is playing basketball a fun way for kids to stay active, it helps them form friendships, learn to work in a team and provide them with an outlet for their energy.

The skills developed from playing basketball at a young age will benefit them in their personal and professional future. From toddler and teen to young adult and middle age, social skills and motor skills are an essential part of everyday life, and with basketball, kids can learn these early on in a safe environment.

WHAT BASKETBALL TEACHES KIDS

  • Playing basketball at a young age teaches kids what it means to be a good team player. As an interactive, social sport, kids learn to communicate with one another and strive towards a common goal together.
  • Through both winning and losing a game of basketball, kids are taught what good sportsmanship looks like, and how to be respectful to opponents. There will be instances in their life when they must compete with other people and playing team sports allows kids to understand the importance of humility.
  • During a game of basketball essential motor skills are continuously used. Playing requires balance, endurance and coordination, and kids can learn how their body moves. The more active kids are, the more resilient they will psychically be. It also teaches them about injury prevention through proper training, warming up, stretching and cooling down.
  • As a very social sport, playing basketball helps kids develop their communication and social skills. They learn how to talk to others, make new friends and it gives them an understanding of the different abilities of other people.
  • Most importantly through playing basketball kids learn that being active is fun. This lesson is crucial to their physical, mental and emotional health and the earlier they associate exercise with enjoyment, they are more likely to remain active throughout their life.

THE BEAUTY OF BASKETBALL

The benefits of kids playing basketball at a young age is endless. And at Spalding we love nothing more than hearing the wonderful stories of our basketball heroes who one day picked up a ball as a kid and then never put it back down. We all start somewhere, so get out there with your teammates, grab your ball of choice, have fun, and never stop playing your favorite game!

 

THE PERFECT PICKLEBALL WORKOUT | Jeffrey Pinkerton, MOSSA

Yes, I consider myself a Pickleball fanatic. I’ll spare you my opinion on the playability of one ball type over the other or my indifferences on the current updates to our rating system. Instead, I want to talk about what it takes to play Pickleball, my experience getting “Pickleball Fit,” where I see people’s mobility and agility lacking, and how hours spent in your facility [at the JCC!] can help people spend more – and better – hours on the court. Because, yes, [fitness] programming can prepare members to be more active in life and in sport… including, and for the purposes of this article, Pickleball.

Are You Pickleball Fit? As a longtime tennis player and ping pong player, my transition to playing Pickleball was a relatively easy one; it’s no big surprise that a serve-and-volley tennis player can make the move to Pickleball relatively seamlessly. What was surprising, however, was how sore I was after each time I played. I work out an “above average” amount during the week, including lunchtime workouts at MOSSA HQ, so I consider myself to be fit… but Pickleball fit?

If you’re under the impression that Pickleball is an older person’s activity; believe that, because the court is small, there must not be a lot of running; or think that a whiffle ball means that things move slowly, go try it, then let’s talk. And, if you’ve never played, I encourage you to join the 36+ million people who are playing it (I’m guessing your members are among them!) and see how you feel. But, before you buy a paddle and run out on the courts, here are some things you can do to prepare yourself (and your members) to play.

Mobility and Agility Pickleball involves running, jumping, shuffling, bending, lunging and lots of starting and stopping. Players move side to side throughout the game, run forward towards the net, scramble to chase balls, jump (for various reasons) and run back to chase lobs. Because the serving team is required to let the return of serve bounce, returning players run to the net 99.9% of the time. The quicker you can get there, the better. It’s jogging, running, stutter-stepping, starting and stopping. If you don’t train for it, you’ll shuffle your way in after you return, and I’ll drive the ball down at your feet before you can get into position. Sorry, not sorry.

Bucketloads of Bending Unlike tennis, the vast majority of Pickleball is played at the net, or at least near the net. And, if that sounds easy, well, let me explain why it’s anything but.

Generally, in doubles, the goal is for both players to get to the kitchen (near the net) and then exchange dinks (shorter shots that go over the net and land in or near the kitchen) until someone hits a dink that is “attackable.” A dink hit too high allows one team to speed up play or put the ball away entirely. In pro and amateur Pickleball alike, patience often wins these dinking exchanges, as they often go on for 6, 8 or 10+ shots.

During this time, players spend a good deal of time with their feet near the kitchen line, bending and reaching over the kitchen. This takes lower-back core strength, quad conditioning and hamstring flexibility. Spend a couple of hours on the court, and also on the balls of your feet (an enthusiastic “ready position”), and your lower back and calves are sore for the next two days, at least!

Lots of Lunging Thankfully, Pickleball is not just played standing at a white line, bent forward, dinking the ball back and forth. Players use angles of their dinks to move their opponents from side to side and to force them into awkward positions. The challenge is to move quickly to the ball, return the ball safely or to a more advantageous position, then return yourself back to just outside the kitchen line. As a result, being able to quickly lunge forward (to get a ball that bounces in front of you), lunge laterally (to get a ball that has been dinked out wide) and lunge backwards (to get a ball that you can’t take out of the air) ends up being one of the most essential but physically challenging parts of Pickleball.

If you watch a pro Pickleball player, they’ll take a couple of shuffle steps to the side, make a low lateral lunge, then reverse that process to quickly return to where they started. For a player who lacks the strength, ability, coordination or balance to lunge, the results are not good. It’s difficult to get settled, so they are still moving when they hit the ball (it often goes in the net), they overcompensate by reaching and swatting at the ball (it often pops up) and they don’t lunge or bend well, and because the Pickleball ball doesn’t bounce a tremendous amount, they actually swing and miss completely… whiffing the whiffle.

Rest, Recover and Repeat As the popularity of Pickleball continues to rise, unfortunately, so will the injuries. Part of this is just the statistics of it all, but part can and should be prevented with better training and better preparation.

A good number of my friends have been sidelined by injuries that they classify as “overuse” injuries. They chalk it up to too many days of playing too much Pickleball. But, could they be more accurately classified as “under-trained” injuries, or even better, “unprepared” injuries?

That’s where I believe health and fitness clubs can have the biggest impact as it relates to the current (and I hope, long-lasting) Pickleball craze. Sell the benefits of training to prepare people for life and sport. In membership conversations, when asking people what kind of activities they like to do, be prepared to help people connect the dots in their training and in their active-life endeavors. And, here’s the advice that will sell any hardcore Pickleballer: convince them that more time in your club (in training and in recovery) will actually allow them to spend more time on the Pickleball court.

If you are interested in learning more about what I believe to be the ultimate Pickleball workout, a combination of cardio, strength, balance, mobility and Movement Health, check out MOSSA group exercise classes held at the JCC such as Group Active, Group Blast, Group Power and Group Core HERE. It’s MOSSA’s solution to getting more people, and more Pickleballers, moving!


FRIENDSHIPS: ENRICH YOUR LIFE AND IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH | Mayo Clinic Staff

Discover the connection between health and friendship, and how to promote and maintain healthy friendships.

Friendships can have a major impact on your health and well-being, but it’s not always easy to develop or maintain friendships. Understand the importance of social connection in your life and what you can do to develop and nurture lasting friendships.

What are the benefits of friendships? Good friends are good for your health. Friends can help you celebrate good times and provide support during bad times. Friends prevent isolation and loneliness and give you a chance to offer needed companionship, too. Friends can also:

  • Increase your sense of belonging and purpose
  • Boost your happiness and reduce your stress
  • Improve your self-confidence and self-worth
  • Help you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one
  • Encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise

Friends also play a significant role in promoting your overall health. Adults with strong social connections have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index (BMI). In fact, studies have found that older adults who have meaningful relationships and social support are likely to live longer than their peers with fewer connections.

Why is it sometimes hard to make friends or maintain friendships? Many adults find it hard to develop new friendships or keep up existing friendships. Friendships may take a back seat to other priorities, such as work or caring for children or aging parents. You and your friends may have grown apart due to changes in your lives or interests. Or maybe you’ve moved to a new community and haven’t yet found a way to meet people.

Developing and maintaining good friendships takes effort. The enjoyment and comfort friendship can provide, however, makes the investment worthwhile.

What’s a healthy number of friends? Quality counts more than quantity. While it may be good to cultivate a diverse network of friends and acquaintances, you may feel a greater sense of belonging and well-being by nurturing close, meaningful relationships that will support you through thick and thin.

What are some ways to meet new friends? It’s possible to develop friendships with people who are already in your social network. Think through people you’ve interacted with — even very casually — who made a positive impression.

You may make new friends and nurture existing relationships by:

  • Staying in touch with people with whom you’ve worked or taken classes
  • Reconnecting with old friends
  • Reaching out to people you’ve enjoyed chatting with at social gatherings
  • Introducing yourself to neighbors
  • Making time to connect with family members

If anyone stands out in your memory as someone you’d like to know better, reach out. Ask mutual friends or acquaintances to share the person’s contact information, or — even better — to reintroduce the two of you with a text, email or in-person visit. Extend an invitation to coffee or lunch.

To meet new people who might become your friends, you have to go to places where others are gathered. Don’t limit yourself to one strategy for meeting people. The broader your efforts, the greater your likelihood of success.

Persistence also matters. Take the initiative rather than waiting for invitations to come your way and keep trying. You may need to suggest plans a few times before you can tell if your interest in a new friend is mutual.

For example, try several of these ideas:

  • Attend community events. Look for groups or clubs that gather around an interest or hobby you share. You may find these groups online, or they may be listed in the newspaper or on community bulletin boards. There are also many websites that help you connect with new friends in your neighborhood or city. Do a Google search using terms such as [your city] + social network, or [your neighborhood] + meet ups.
  • Volunteer. Offer your time or talents at a hospital, place of worship, museum, community center, charitable group or other organization. You can form strong connections when you work with people who have mutual interests.
  • Extend and accept invitations. Invite a friend to join you for coffee or lunch. When you’re invited to a social gathering, say yes. Contact someone who recently invited you to an activity and return the favor.
  • Take up a new interest. Take a college or community education course to meet people who have similar interests. Join a class at a local gym, senior center or community fitness facility.
  • Join a faith community. Take advantage of special activities and get-to-know-you events for new members.
  • Take a walk. Grab your kids or pet and head outside. Chat with neighbors who are also out and about or head to a popular park and strike up conversations there.

Above all, stay positive. You may not become friends with everyone you meet but maintaining a friendly attitude and demeanor can help you improve the relationships in your life. It may also sow the seeds of friendship with new acquaintances.

How does social media affect friendships? Joining a chat group or online community might help you make or maintain connections and relieve loneliness. However, research suggests that use of social networking sites doesn’t necessarily translate to a larger offline network or closer offline relationships with network members. In addition, remember to exercise caution when sharing personal information or arranging an activity with someone you’ve only met online.

How can I nurture my friendships? Developing and maintaining healthy friendships involves give-and-take. Sometimes you’re the one giving support, and other times you’re on the receiving end. Letting friends know you care about them and appreciate them can help strengthen your bond. It’s as important for you to be a good friend as it is to surround yourself with good friends.

To nurture your friendships:

  • Be kind. This most-basic behavior remains the core of successful relationships. Think of friendship as an emotional bank account. Every act of kindness and every expression of gratitude are deposits into this account, while criticism and negativity draw down the account.
  • Be a good listener. Ask what’s going on in your friends’ lives. Let the other person know you are paying close attention through eye contact, body language and occasional brief comments such as, “That sounds fun.” When friends share details of hard times or difficult experiences, be empathetic, but don’t give advice unless your friends ask for it.
  • Open up. Build intimacy with your friends by opening up about yourself. Being willing to disclose personal experiences and concerns shows that your friend holds a special place in your life, and it may deepen your connection.
  • Show that you can be trusted. Being responsible, reliable and dependable is key to forming strong friendships. Keep your engagements and arrive on time. Follow through on commitments you’ve made to your friends. When your friends share confidential information, keep it private.
  • Make yourself available. Building a close friendship takes time — together. Make an effort to see new friends regularly, and to check in with them in between meet ups. You may feel awkward the first few times you talk on the phone or get together, but this feeling is likely to pass as you get more comfortable with each other.
  • Manage your nerves with mindfulness. You may find yourself imagining the worst of social situations, and you may feel tempted to stay home. Use mindfulness exercises to reshape your thinking. Each time you imagine the worst, pay attention to how often the embarrassing situations you’re afraid of actually take place. You may notice that the scenarios you fear usually don’t happen.When embarrassing situations do happen, remind yourself that your feelings will pass, and you can handle them until they do. Yoga and other mind-body relaxation practices also may reduce anxiety and help you face situations that make you feel nervous.

Remember, it’s never too late to develop new friendships or reconnect with old friends. Investing time in making friends and strengthening your friendships can pay off in better health and a brighter outlook for years to come.


TIPS TO STAY ACTIVE THIS FALL | Penn Medicine 

It seems as though everything is just a bit easier during the summer. People tend to be a little more laid back at work, there are less people on the road because many are on vacation and, with the added sunlight and warm temperatures, being active seems to be much less of a hassle.

Autumn, though, is here. Say goodbye to the warm temperatures and hello to shorter days and cooler weather. Perhaps it’s the fewer hours of sunlight, but this time of the year seems to be when many go into hibernation and ease up on their active summer lifestyles.

This doesn’t have to be the case as there are many fun things to do to stay fit during the cooler months.

“The change of seasons is a good time to focus on health and wellness goals,” said Ngozi Onuoha, MD, FACP, of Penn Internal Medicine Mayfair. “Autumn is a great season to walk. Walking is a great form of exercise that does not require much preparation.”

Here are some other tips to keep you moving and feeling healthy this fall.

  • Make exercise fun: Autumn is synonymous with harvest season. What better way to stay active than to go pumpkin or apple picking with your family or friends? For the younger ones (or those simply young at heart, take part in physical activities such as corn mazes and haunted trails.
  • Sign up for a holiday run: Fall is the season in which many fun runs and events occur. Participate in Halloween runs, turkey trots, reindeer romps, etc. Setting a specific goal, such as a race to train for, increases adherence to an exercise program. Signing up with friends or family will motivate you even more.
  • Enjoy the colors: Grab a friend, and find a local park that has great trails to walk, run, or ride a bike on.
  • Go to a farmer’s market: Many of the root vegetables are in season and are inexpensive. Grab some apples while you’re at it as they’re rich in antioxidants and flavonoids, both of which can reduce cholesterol.
  • Take advantage of the cooler weather: Play catch, walk the dog, get a group of friends together to play ultimate Frisbee or touch football.
  • Make fall chores fun: Raking your lawn can be a real workout. Have fun with it (perhaps by jumping in the leaves??).

4 WAYS SPENDING TIME IN NATURE MAKES YOU HEALTHIER | Jessica Migala, SilverSneakers 

If there’s one thing you can do for your health today, spend some time outside. “There are many physical and mental benefits to spending time in nature, including improved cardiovascular health, increased life expectancy, enhanced cognitive function, and stress reduction,” says Lincoln Larson, PhD, associate professor in the College of Natural Resources at North Carolina State University.

Indeed, research over the last decade underpins the distinct benefits of green spaces (or blue ones, if you like water). According to a recent literature review in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, being among the birds and the trees or listening to the waves crash on the shore:

  • Improves blood pressure
  • Increases brain activity
  • Lessens anxiety
  • Bolsters immunity
  • Helps people recover faster from surgery

One reason? We evolved with nature — we were built to be in it, so our bodies and minds feel better in natural environments. Contrast that with our modern lifestyles, which tend to push us to spend more and more time in front of a screen.

That’s the big picture. Here are some specifics on how being in nature benefits your body and brain:

It Promotes an Active Life Spending time outside supports greater levels of physical activity compared to staying cooped up indoors, according to an analysis in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine. That, in turn, can help decrease your risk of developing chronic disease, the researchers report.

Whether you prefer to walk, hike, bike on a trail, or take a dip in the lake, the great outdoors gives you countless opportunities for healthy activity. 

It May Boost the Benefits of Exercise Any time you can sneak in physical activity — whether that’s taking an extra set of stairs or racking up more steps by walking around your home — it’s a win. But if you tend to do your workouts only at the gym, hear this: “There’s evidence that exercise done outside has larger benefits than exercise done indoors,” says ecologist Joshua Lawler, PhD, professor and Director of the Nature and Health Program at the University of Washington.

One study found that a 15-minute walk outside revved up measures of cognitive function, such as attention and working memory, better than the same walk indoors, according to a study in the journal Scientific Reports.

“Spending time in nature reduces cognitive load, which is stress on the brain. Instead of hard concentration used with screens, nature takes us into soft fascination, where we can passively appreciate the world around us,” Larson explains.

It Combats Loneliness “Loneliness and isolation is a public health concern,” says Kathleen Wolf, PhD, a retired research social scientist with the University of Washington. The harms of isolation were never more apparent than during the pandemic, and it continues to be a problem today.

Being in nature is one antidote. People who spent more time outdoors had higher levels of emotional wellbeing compared to adults who stayed inside, likely because being outside provides time to nurture social relationships and connect to the outside world, according to research in the Journal of Happiness Studies. Activities like group walking programs can bring you together with others while getting you outside, says Wolf.

It Improves Your Mood When you’re sad and need a lift, or angry and need to cool off, try taking five outside. Research suggests that a walk in nature may help decrease symptoms of depression, according to a 2022 study from researchers in Spain.

“Being in nature offers incredible benefits for mental health,” says Wolf. Nature can help cut through a tendency to ruminate, or get stuck in a spiral of negative thoughts. “Rumination is diminished because you may think more positively when you’re in a nature setting where you feel secure and safe,” she explains.

Who can think about anything else when the sun is shining and the birds are singing?


STUDY FINDS PHYSICAL FITNESS 1.5 TIMES MORE EFFECTIVE THAN OTHER THERAPIES FOR MENTAL HEALTH | Carrie Harper, Club Industry

Earlier in 2023, The University of South Australia conducted a study review encompassing 1,039 studies with over 128,000 participants, which linked physical fitness practices to mental wellness.

Subjects of the studies had varying demographics, a cross-section of the population, not all with a pre-existing diagnosis of a mental health disorder. Any and all kinds of physical fitness practices were included in the studies and noted according to duration and intensity of the exercise. Mental health data was taken and analyzed based on several scales, as well as self-reports.

Here are some findings from the review:

  • Exercise has a significant impact on mental health issues and disorders, including anxiety and depression.
  • The overall data shows that physical exercise may be 1.5 times more effective than traditional counseling or pharmaceutical intervention.*
  • The most significantly impacted populations for positive change include women with chronic illness, pre and post natal women, and people living with HIV.
  • Moderate to intense exercise had a more positive impact than lower intensity.
  • Exercising 150 minutes or less per week had a more positive impact than more time working out.
  • Programmed or prescribed exercise plans of 12 weeks had a more positive impact than not having an exercise plan.

Mental health is important for everyone, not just those diagnosed with a disorder. Most people undergo stress from daily life, or can have temporary bouts of depression and anxiety. This study review shows the positive mental health benefit of physical activity for everyone, not just those in medical care for a diagnosis.

The World Health Organization estimates that mental health disorders rose significantly over the years of 2020-21, with a baseline before the COVID-19 pandemic to be about 12.5% of the global population. That number is unclear in 2023, as some people suffered significant temporary stress, and some continue to struggle. Lifestyle changes have been discussed and suggested for many years around mental health, but this is one of the first studies to show that it may be more effective for some people than counseling, therapy, or medications.*

In addition, because mental health is not seen as a physical symptom in many people, the numbers reported by World Health Organization may be lower than the actual number of people with underlying mental health issues, including many levels of anxiety and depression.

*This study does not imply that people should leave their current practices in therapy, or that they should quit taking their medications. This study quantifies prescribing physical activity as part of a mental health care plan, and shows that lifestyle changes can have a significant impact on people’s mental health. It also shows that people who are not in therapy or taking medication may still get significant positive results from a simple exercise plan.


RETHINKING BMI | Annie Kostovny & Elie Golin, JCC

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette recently posted an article titled, The BMI takes a major hit from the American Medical Association. Now what? The article references a recent publication from the American Medical Association which states that the BMI (body mass index) measurement is an “imperfect measurement and should not be used alone to determine a patient’s overall health.”

FINALLY!!!!!

The article goes on to share some of the reasons why this is an imperfect and often times inaccurate measurement. BMI does not take into account age, muscle mass, fat mass, and fat distribution. It is possible to have 6% body fat and still be considered morbidly obese and alternatively, have 35% body fat and be considered a healthy weight.  Think about a body builder – 6 foot 2 inches, 280 pounds, not a shred of fat on them. Based on BMI, the ratio of weight to height would put this individual as incredibly obese.

The JCC prides itself on staying current with the science and has been following this line of thinking for a while to assist our members in achieving a healthy lifestyle. During out Complimentary Fitness Assessments as well as Personal Training Programs, we incorporate a Styku, an advanced piece of technology that takes a 3D scan of your body and is able to provide weight, fat mass percentage, bone density, muscle mass and more! Using these measurements, we are able to provide a much more accurate reading of an individual’s health and suggest any lifestyle changes that should be considered.

To schedule a Styku session, contact Elie Golin at [email protected]


IS IT BAD TO SLEEP AFTER A MEAL? | UPMC Health Beat

We’ve all been told that eating a meal before bed can have unhealthy side effects — the biggest being weight gain. But depending on what you eat, that might not necessarily be the case. So, how does eating before sleep really affect your body?

Eating right before going to bed is not recommended because it works against the body’s circadian rhythm.

When you eat just before going to sleep you do not give the body the proper time to digest and burn off the calories you have just ingested. Instead of being used as fuel for the day, those calories will be turned into fat and stored in the body.

Weight gain Your body gains weight when you take in more calories than you burn off. This is the case no matter when you eat.

Going to sleep directly after you eat means your body doesn’t get a chance to burn off those calories. In fact, eating a big meal and then hitting the couch can be just as harmful.

Eating an early dinner allows your body time to burn off extra calories before you go to sleep. Late-night snacks tend to be high-calorie foods — such as ice cream or potato chips — so it’s more important to watch the types of foods you are eating before sleep rather than when you are eating them.

Trouble sleeping Eating before bed can also affect how well you sleep during the night. Fatty or heavy foods may cause bloating and stomach pain that can keep you tossing and turning. Also, spicy foods that cause heartburn or indigestion can keep you from getting a good night’s rest.

While it is important to watch what you eat before bed, eating a small healthy snack might not be a bad idea. Going to bed with a growling stomach can be just as uncomfortable as eating too much. A small snack also can keep you from binge eating at breakfast in the morning.

Why Do I Get Tired After I Eat? Feeling tired after eating is a common occurrence. Your body takes anywhere from 30 to 40 hours to full digest a meal. As you continue to add food to your stomach, your body must continually work to digest it. Eating a large meal can take some energy to digest, making you feel a bit tired.

Also consider what you ate. Meals heavy with carbohydrates or protein may make you feel tired as these foods take time to digest and release hormones that can make you feel tired. There also is research that shows that foods rich in tryptophan, an essential amino acid, can lead to the body producing more serotonin, the chemical that regulates mood and sleep cycles. Eating foods such as cheese, fish, eggs, and chicken — which all contain Tryptophan — can make you feel tired afterward.

How Long Should You Wait to Sleep After Eating? It is recommended that you stop eating about three hours before you plan to go to bed. This will give your body enough time to properly digest the food you have eaten without disrupting your sleep, but also allowing time to notice any symptoms of acid reflux or any other digestion related irritation.

For those who eat early and sleep later, it actually may be beneficial to have a small healthy snack before bed.

What to Eat Before Bed While it is important to watch what you eat before bed, there are some healthy options. If done the right way, snacking before bed might actually be healthy. Choosing the right foods can help you sleep better and feel energized the next day. Some healthy bedtime snacks include:

  • Almond mix
  • Warm milk and honey
  • Blueberries
  • Chamomile tea
  • Tart cherry juice
  • Peanut butter
  • Low fat yogurt with fruit

It is important to remember that it is not necessary when you are eating but what and how much you are eating that might be affecting your sleep and causing you to gain weight.

What to Avoid Eating Before Bed While it may be recommended not to eat at all before bed, anything high in fat and sugar should certainly be avoided before bed. Other foods to avoid eating before bed include:

  • Ice cream
  • Candy
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine

THE DOs AND DON’Ts TO MAKE STRENGTH TRAINING DAYS DELIVER | Lauren Bedosky, SilverSneakers

When your strength routine is fun and effective, you’re more likely to stick with it.Starting a strength training routine is only half the battle — sticking with it is the other half. If you can figure out ways to make your strength training days fun and effective, you can increase your odds of a routine that lasts.Consider this your cheat-sheet for getting the most benefits from your strength training days.Don’t: Limit Yourself to Bodyweight-Only Bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, and wall pushups offer a great entry point to strength training, says Damien A. Joyner, C.P.T., a personal trainer who specializes in healthy aging and owns Incremental Fitness in San Diego, California. You can do bodyweight exercises practically anywhere, Joyner says, and they can help you learn proper exercise form before adding weight.But at a certain point, you can only do so much with your body weight. Incorporating equipment enables you to perform more exercises and progress in weight as you gain strength, he explains. This can make your strength workouts more challenging and exciting.You have tons of tools to choose from, including:

  • Free weights. These include barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, and medicine balls.
  • Resistance bands and tubing. These portable, lightweight rubber band-like tools provide resistance when stretched.
  • Weight machines. Many gyms and health clubs, including JCCPGH, offer weight machines. These machines follow a fixed path for a given exercise.

Play with the different options to see which tools and equipment you prefer. You might sprinkle some equipment-based exercises into your bodyweight routine or dedicate one strength workout per week to equipment-based exercises.

Do: Train With Others Strength training doesn’t have to be a solo activity. In fact, doing it with others can make the experience more enjoyable. It can also help you stay accountable to your strength program if someone expects you to show up, Joyner says.

Take a SilverSneakers group strength training class or make a gym date with friends or family. You get to laugh and work your muscles at the same time, Joyner notes.

Don’t: Neglect Your Form Mastering proper form is essential for seeing benefits from strength exercises. It’s also key for avoiding pain and injury. If you have yet to learn proper exercise form or feel you could use a refresher, a certified personal trainer can help. “The best way to learn form is to have a professional assist you so you don’t get hurt,” Joyner says.

Group exercise classes are another effective option, he notes. In a group exercise class, you can watch other members and receive feedback from an instructor. SilverSneakers instructors are trained in the fitness needs of older adults and can help you nail down the form of new exercises — or show you ways to modify moves so you can exercise safely.

Do: Remember Your “Why” Your motivation to train will be higher on some days than others. When you’re tempted to skip your workout, remind yourself why you started strength training in the first place. Or what benefits you’ve noticed so far. “If someone’s back is constantly tight and strength training has helped it feel looser, that may motivate them to continue doing it,” Joyner says.

For you, strength training may help you keep up with your grandkids, enjoy more activities during retirement, and/or perform daily tasks more easily. Whatever your purpose, remind yourself of it when your motivation drops.

Don’t: Bite Off More Than You Can Chew Keeping your strength training routine doable will make it easier to stay consistent. If you try to do too much, you may be tempted to quit. “Start with small habits and work up from there,” Joyner says.

You might begin with one strength workout per week and simply focus on showing up. Once that feels easy, make your workout more challenging by increasing weight, changing the exercises, and/or tweaking the sets and reps. Or, add a second weekly workout.

Do: Change Your Rep Counts If you’re beginning a strength routine, three sets of eight to 12 reps per exercise is a good place to start, Joyner says. Once you get the hang of that set and rep scheme, consider experimenting with others. Working in different rep ranges can help you target different fitness goals, including endurance, muscle definition, and muscle strength.

For example, if you want to focus on building pure strength, you could switch to six reps or fewer. The weight you choose should make your muscles fatigued by the final rep.

To target endurance, shoot for 12 or more reps. For muscle definition, go for eight to 15 reps.

One important caveat: It’s best to work with a certified personal trainer if you’re lifting in the lower rep ranges, as heavier weights can increase your risk of pain and injury, Joyner cautions.


IS SELTZER WATER BAD FOR YOU? | UPMC Health Beat

Everyone knows that drinking water has its benefits. It helps keep you hydrated during workouts and keeps your body running smoothly. But what about seltzer water?

Is carbonated water good for you? Does it have the same benefits as non-carbonated water? Is seltzer water bad for your teeth?

Let’s pop open a can or a bottle and look at the pros and cons of seltzer water.

What Is Seltzer Water?

Seltzer water is a carbonated beverage that infuses plain water with carbon dioxide. This creates its signature bubbly or fizzy effect. You can also add fruit juice or other flavorings to seltzer water as a refreshing treat.

Seltzer water often gets lumped in with other carbonated beverages, such as:

  • Club soda
  • Sparkling water
  • Tonic

However, despite their shared characteristic of carbonation, these drinks differ from one another.

Club soda Like seltzer water, club soda includes carbon dioxide. Unlike seltzer water, it also includes minerals like sodium bicarbonate, sodium citrate, disodium phosphate, and sodium chloride.

Sparkling water is perhaps the closest relative of seltzer water. It includes dissolved solids such as potassium, sodium, and magnesium. Its bubbles are often natural, though you can add them artificially.

Tonic consists of seltzer water plus quinine or sugar for a sweeter taste. And the added sugar increases calories.

The Rise in Seltzer Water’s Popularity

In the past 10 years, seltzer water and sparkling water have become popular in the beverage industry, topping $4 billion in sales annually. Though it feels like a more modern invention, its history dates back to 1767 when Joseph Priestly invented it in England.

Around the same time in the 1760s, Native Americans in the United States believed that natural spring water had medicinal powers. It even helped treat injured soldiers during the Revolutionary War.

During the mid-20th century, carbonated water signified wealth and stature within the middle class. This was especially true if you had your own soda siphon to create bubbles from the comfort of your own home.

Up until the Second World War, seltzer water was known as soda water. It was available at soda fountains as an inexpensive treat for 2 cents with the option to add flavors for an additional penny. In the 1950s, seltzer water finally hit the American vernacular and started to grow in popularity.

Is Seltzer Water Bad for You?

Seltzer water is not bad for you. Seltzer water hydrates the same way non-carbonated water does. One big exception is that it doesn’t include the benefit of fluoride, which aids in preventing tooth decay. However, if you use tap water at home to create your own seltzer water, you can get the benefits of fluoride as well as the carbonation you love.

To get the same benefits as non-carbonated water, make sure you limit seltzer water that features sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, sodium, or artificial flavorings. If you can choose from club soda, sparkling water, or tonic, avoid tonic because it contains sugar flavoring.

Side Effects of Seltzer Water

Though seltzer water is not bad for you, drinking too much of it can cause issues. Here are a few side effects to consider when you crack open a seltzer:

  • Bloating. Gas in the water can cause your stomach to puff out.
  • Burping. Again, the gas in the water can cause your stomach to expand, which can make you belch.
  • Diarrhea. That fizz on your tongue might feel great, but it won’t feel as good in your gastrointestinal tract.
  • Intestinal discomfort. Excess seltzer water or carbonated beverages can harm your gut. It is good practice to avoid carbonated beverages if you have irritable bowel syndrome or experience gastrointestinal issues often. Talk to your doctor if this is an issue for you.

Is Carbonated Water Good for You?

Yes, carbonated water has many of the same benefits as non-carbonated water. It also has its own benefits, such as:

  • Making you feel fuller to aid in weight loss.
  • Helping with digestion by stimulating the nerves you use to eat.
  • Helping those who people prefer seltzer water to regular water stay hydrated.

Is Seltzer Bad for Your Teeth?

Seltzer water is not bad for your teeth, even though it has an acidic quality that plain water doesn’t. If your teeth are a concern, you should drink other beverages and limit yourself to one seltzer a day.

And if you enjoy more than one seltzer water per day, you could always brush your teeth ahead of time with fluoride. This can ensure your teeth are getting the nutrients they need.

The benefit of fluoride is the main difference between non-carbonated water and seltzer water. The risk of dental damage to your teeth from seltzer water is minimal as long as you limit your sugar intake in these beverages. If you’re concerned about your teeth, create your own carbonated water at home with tap water to get that boost of fluoride.

How to Select the Best Carbonated Water

Now that you know the benefits of seltzer water, here are some tips for choosing the best carbonated water for you:

  • Opt for sparkling water or seltzer water over club soda if you want to limit sodium.
  • Remember that unflavored and unsweetened seltzer water is the option that is most like non-carbonated water.
  • Add fruit juice to your seltzer water to infuse your beverage with natural flavors.

Seltzer water is a refreshing beverage that can also ensure you are staying hydrated. If you are looking to see how seltzer water could fit into your diet and lifestyle, talk to your doctor.


HOW TO STAY MOTIVATED TO WORK OUT | Cathy Spencer Browning, MOSSA

If my mum was describing me to her friends, she would probably say something like, “Oh Cath, my oldest – well, she’s the fitness fanatic.” I would never correct her – too late for that. But something about that phrase no longer serves me. I have taken it upon myself to rebrand, to evolve, if only for my own internal dialogue. I like to think of myself as a wellness fanatic and being an avid exerciser is one of the pillars of being well. In fact, my wellness is my primary exercise motivation.

In a previous blog, How to Start Working Out, we talked about the importance of having compelling reasons to get moving. Now that we’re moving, let’s dig into some of the tremendous benefits – that go well beyond outward “physical fitness” – to keep us motivated to work out.

My goal: to help you build your motivation muscle and really believe and understand that there really is no such thing as a bad workout – EVER! There might be fewer calories burned, or slightly lower heart rates, or reduced duration. But BAD? Not ever! It’s all an investment, a step in the direction of living better, longer. To quote Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Mark Hyman, “Exercise is a wonder drug with crazy benefits and virtually no adverse side effects.”

Motivation to Move…Picture an Escalator

Speaking of steps, let me share an analogy that I like to use to explain the compounding benefits of exercise.

Picture an escalator on its way down. That’s the passage of time. When we move our bodies, when we exercise, we are “actively aging.” We are walking up the escalator that is on its way down. Exercise gives us the ability to stay where we are on the escalator and even make some progress fighting against the downward trajectory. Conversely, “inactive aging,” not moving, not exercising, is standing on a single step and letting the escalator take us down. And because of inactivity, that escalator is steep and fast.

This steep and fast decline is occurring because our bodies are hardwired for movement, which used to be essential for evading predators and finding food. We hunted, we gathered, and we became very effective at regular exercise and rest cycles. Our modern-day lifestyles mean that we now have an abundance of food and have simultaneously engineered movement out of our lives. But because movement and exercise are essential to our bodies’ biology, this level of inactivity is sending the wrong signal to our body. It is telling our bodies to go ahead and decay rather than grow.

But the remarkable thing about the human body is that we can flip anytime to growth mode. At any age, we can reverse the negative effects of an overly sedentary lifestyle. We can start walking up that down escalator. Or, more immediately (and practically), we can get up and walk around the block and our bodies will respond!

What’s Happening (Way) Below the Surface

So much “fitness noise” exclusively focuses on aesthetics as a reason to move – what’s happening on the outside – when what’s happening on the inside is so much more profound! And we’re about to go deep into the inside, even bypassing life-changing results like better sleep, improved self-confidence, and reduced anxiety. We’re going cellular-level deep to find motivation to move in the illness-fighting benefits of exercise.

Exercise enhances immune function. Exercise boosts the immune system by maximizing the body’s ability to take in and effectively use oxygen, increasing the activity of virus-killing cells. Another way to look at it…the increased blood flow caused by exercise increases circulation of the immune cells so that they roam around the body at a higher rate and in higher numbers.

Exercise improves gut health and function! Maybe it doesn’t sound as sexy as having better biceps…but we have a crucial symbiotic relationship with the little critters that live in our gut! This bacterium supports a whole host of bodily functions and our body, in turn, supports the health and growth of the microorganisms. The gut microbiome affects the body from birth by controlling the digestion of food, immune system, central nervous system, and other bodily processes. And exercise has been shown to improve the flourishing and diversity of the gut microbiome.

Exercise boosts both the number and the function of our mitochondria. Mitochondria are the energy factories in our cells and mitochondrial dysfunction is associated with premature aging, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Exercise has been shown to dramatically improve mitochondrial function. In fact, a paper titled Exercise and Mitochondrial Health stated:, “To this point, exercise remains the most potent behavioral therapeutic approach for the improvement of mitochondrial health, not only in muscle, but potentially also in other tissues.”

Exercise balances blood sugar and insulin. Exercise makes our bodies more sensitive to insulin (the hormone that allows the cells in the body to convert blood sugar for energy) as well as helps control blood sugar levels and lowers our risk of cardiovascular disease.

Exercise reduces inflammation. Dr. Mark Hyman uses the phrase “inflammaging” to describe the age-related increase in pro-inflammatory markers in the blood and in the tissues, which is a very strong risk factor for a myriad of disease states that range from cancer to heart disease to dementia. Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce or minimize inflammation in the body.

Exercise increases telomere length. A telomere, put very (very) simply, is found at both ends of each chromosome and is responsible for protecting our genome from going rogue or doing the wrong thing. Our genome contains all the information that we need to grow and develop, but as we age the telomeres get shorter, eventually so much so that it affects our health and lifespan. In a way they are like a biological clock. Exercise has been shown to reduce the pace of aging by increasing telomere length!

Exercise boosts detoxification and circulation. Exercise has a positive impact on the function of your lymphatic system – one of our body’s key lines of defense against toxins. The lymphatic vessels and lymph nodes are responsible for sending lymph fluid around the body to maintain healthy immunity and protect against harmful substances.

Exercise improves mental detoxing. The runner’s high is common knowledge, but any exercise delivers the incredible brain boost we get with the release of the happy hormones – endorphins – that flood our body while we move, simultaneously detoxing the brain of stressors.

Exercise improves brain health. It is now well-known that physical activity reduces the risk of cognitive decline, including dementia. Studies have shown that cognitive decline can be as much as twice as common in the inactive versus the active!

Exercise reduces cancer risk. Many of the benefits mentioned already are directly linked to cancer, but it is worth stating that exercise reduces the incidence of specific cancers, like bladder, breast, colon, endometrium (innermost lining layer of the uterus), esophagus, kidney, lung, and stomach.

We Love an Ulterior Motive…ation

Almost everything we do under the “fitness” umbrella at MOSSA has an ulterior motive. As in…we are about so much more than physical fitness, because we know people need more than aesthetics as motivation to work out. We are about brain health, Movement Health, social fitness, wellness. We passionately believe that moving our bodies is the key to reducing and reversing chronological aging and increasing our health span and active lifespan.

How can we keep you motivated to move for reasons far beyond the physical? I get it; “Increasing your telomere length” might not be the thing that gets you to put on your shoes when your motivation muscle is waning. But I hope there is so much more reflected in your exercise motivation mirror than a flat stomach or toned biceps. Exercise and movement are wonder drugs…wonder drugs whose only side effects are a better, deeply healthier, and more enjoyable life.


5 Ways Walking Helps Your Heart l UPMC Health Beat

You probably know that regular physical activity plays a big part in heart health, but if you haven’t been active in a while, you might wonder where to start. Before you worry about joining a gym or signing up for fitness classes, remember that walking offers a simple, low-cost way to get active on a regular basis.

Regular walking can benefit your heart — and overall health — in many ways.

How Walking Helps Your Heart

Walking is a low-impact activity that can help improve your overall health. According to the American Heart Association, regular walking can not only help you fight serious health problems like heart diseasestroke, and type 2 diabetes, but it may also lower your risk for osteoporosis, breast cancer, and colon cancer.

Whether you’re hoping to prevent heart disease or walking as part of a heart disease treatment plan, regular walking can help you control and manage several risk factors for heart disease by helping you:

  1. Lower your blood pressure
  2. Control your cholesterol level
  3. Manage your blood sugar level
  4. Lose weight, or stay at a healthy weight
  5. Cope with stress in a healthy way
Start Walking for Heart Health

Before you start walking for heart health, take a trip to your doctor’s office to make sure walking is a safe activity based on your medical history and fitness level.

Your doctor can tell you how often you should walk, and for how long. He or she may suggest that you follow the American Heart Association’s recommendations for physical activity in adults, which include:

  • 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity like walking at least five days per week for overall cardiovascular health
  • 40 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity like walking three to four days per week to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol

Once your doctor says it’s safe to start walking, all you’ll need is a pair of comfortable shoes. It’s also a good idea to wear comfortable clothes that are brighter in color, so you’ll be more visible to drivers, bicyclists, and other walkers.

Tips for Walking for Heart Health
  • Start slow. Go for a 5 to 10-minute walk at first, then slowly add more time or distance as you get more comfortable walking on a regular basis.
  • Break up your walks throughout the day If you don’t have 30 to 40 minutes, you can break up your walks into 10-minute sessions.
  • Set reasonable goals. Decide how often you want to walk and for how long. For example, you may want to walk for 30 minutes three times per week, then increase to four times per week or five times per week as you reach your goals.
  • Walk where you feel comfortable. You may want to walk in your neighborhood, at a local park, or at the nearest shopping mall. If you’re walking outside, stick to sidewalks or well-lit walking paths and always be aware of your surroundings.
  • Ask a friend to join you. Walking with a buddy can help you stay motivated and safe.
  • Consider joining a walking program or group. Supervised walking programs, like the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute’s Walk with COACH program, can help you stay motivated.

Getting Back to Working Out After a Long Break l UPMC Health Beat

Vacations. Sickness. Changes in routine. All of these things can affect your workout habits.

COVID-19 lockdown is a perfect example. Pre-vaccines, when restrictions were in place, active people and athletes missed training and time at the gym.

Whether your exercise hiatus is due to COVID-19, an injury, illness, or another upheaval, it can be frustrating. How do you establish an exercise routine again?

First, make sure you are healthy for exercise. If you haven’t seen your doctor lately, make an appointment to discuss your return to exercise.

Next, take a deep breath. You’ve got this! If you had an exercise routine or practice once, you can find it again.

You just need some strategies to help with getting back to working out after a long break.

Strategy #1: Reconnect With Your Motivation

Before you dive back into exercise, think about what motivates you. And assess if your long break had anything to do with lack of motivation.

If it was injuries or illness that sidelined you, this may not be the case. Your motivation may have been strong all along, but your body needed rest. But if the hiatus had to do with losing inspiration or focus, ask yourself some questions, including:

  • What is my “why” for wanting to exercise?
  • What is the bigger reason I can connect to on days when I don’t want to exercise?
  • What do I hope to get out of exercise?

It’s helpful to find a deeper meaning behind the miles, steps, and reps. Because inevitably, there will be times when you’d rather not have to bother with the gym. But if you’ve done the work to define your motivation, you’ll have something stronger to connect to.

Strategy #2: Become a Beginner Again

If you haven’t been able to exercise, you may feel frustrated, angry, and resentful.

While those emotions can bring energy, they can also set you up to fail. You may push too hard, too fast. Or you may just give up entirely when you can’t immediately regain your strength or endurance.

Instead, try adopting a beginner’s mindset. This doesn’t mean you are a true beginner. But you are beginning again.

There are many benefits to having a beginner’s mindset.

Beginners are less likely to judge their performance and allow themselves grace. They are more likely to focus on form and fundamentals. And they are more excited by small wins, because they don’t expect everything right away.

Strategy #3: Half-Time Your Exercise

A 2020 Frontiers in Physiology review study looked at “detraining,” as a result of COVID-19. Detraining essentially means losing fitness because of a lack of training.

The research found that highly conditioned people can begin to lose strength and endurance within just a few weeks of inactivity.

“Use it or lose it” actually applies to all of us, though. In fact, we naturally lose 12% to 14% of our muscle strength each decade after age 50. Add in a bout of inactivity, and the increases can be greater.

This is all to say that after an exercise hiatus, you can’t simply pick up where you left off. You have to build back what you lost. Otherwise, you risk injury—and just plain frustration.

A good rule of thumb is to start by doing about half of what you were doing before the break. This means both half the amount of exercise and half the intensity of the exercise.

For example, if you had built up to running for 60 minutes, start back by walking for 30 minutes. Or if you regularly did 45-minute high-intensity cycling classes, try 20 to 30 minutes of low-impact riding.

Begin to increase your effort by about 10% a week. That is, 10% longer and 10% harder. That way, you’re building back your muscle strength and endurance slowly.

Strategy #4: Invest in New Gear

You don’t necessarily need to spend a lot of money to be fit. However, investing in a few key things may help you stick with a routine because it makes exercise safer and more enjoyable.

For example:

  • Good walking or running shoes can help you prevent injuries.
  • Moisture-wicking layers can keep you warm in the winter and cooler in the summer.
  • Reflective vests or other clothing helps drivers see you in the dark.

Fitness trackers, like watches or smart phone apps, can also be a great motivator. A 2020 review study in International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity looked at step-count monitors. The authors found that just tracking numbers of steps made people take more steps.

You might also consider hiring a trainer for a few sessions or buying a multi-class pass at a gym or studio. Novelty and new gear aren’t enough to sustain an exercise routine. But they can help you jumpstart one.

Strategy #5: Vary Your Exercise

If you focused on just one activity before your exercise break, consider adding variety to your new routine.

This can look like many different things:

  • Adding intervals: Instead of 30 minutes of straight jogging at the same heart rate, try periodically increasing your speed during a workout. This could be for intervals of one, two, or three minutes — or even just 30 seconds. These short bursts of extra effort challenge your fitness.
  • Adding strength training: Weak muscles can lead to injury. Plus, we lose muscle mass with age. Add in one or two days of strength training, using weight machines at the gym or dumbbells.
  • Trying a new activity all together: Cross-training helps you avoid injury from repetitive motion. For example, if you’re a biker, try swimming; if you’re a runner, trying biking. Yoga, Pilates, and other core strength classes are always good to add in.
Strategy #6: Put Exercise Back on Your Calendar

You’re more likely to do the activities you’ve purposely scheduled. If you’ve been away from exercise for a while, you’ve likely filled in the time with something else. You need to reclaim blocks of time every week for exercise.

Be smart about how you schedule it, though. If you hate mornings and dread the alarm going off, morning exercise may not be for you. On the other hand, if you know that evenings are far too chaotic, don’t set yourself up to fail.

Find the spaces on your calendar that work, and lock it in. All the better if you can create accountability with a workout buddy or a group.

Strategy #7: Don’t Try to Get Back to Everything at Once

Trying to make too many changes at once is often a recipe for failure. Beware of trying to restart your exercise program while also trying to change your eating, sleeping, or other habits.

Your first goal is to re-establish your exercise routine. Other changes can follow. Focusing on one thing at a time can help set you up for success.


YES, YOUR DAILY WALK CAN HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT! | Lauren Bedosky, SilverSneakers

It’s hard to believe something as simple as walking can help you lose weight. But these tips can turn your daily walk turn into a serious calorie-burner.Walking isn’t an obvious weight loss contender. But when approached correctly, this basic, everyday movement can help budge the scale. Going for daily walks is a great way to boost your overall health. Walking can even put you in a better mood. When it comes to weight loss, though, it’s all about how you’re walking. If your walk is more of a leisurely stroll, it isn’t likely to help you shave off pounds as easily. With some simple tweaks, though, you can transform your daily walk into a weight loss tool. Here’s how. (Remember to get your doctor’s OK before beginning any new exercise program.) Tip #1: Pick Up the Pace Walking faster is a surefire way to burn more calories. A 155-pound person burns roughly 133 calories walking for 30 minutes at a pace of 3.5 miles per hour (mph), or 17 minutes per mile. Bumping up the pace to 4 mph (15 minutes per mile) takes the calorie burn to 175, per estimates from Harvard Health.  To find the right pace for you, aim to walk at a speed that allows you to speak only in broken sentences.  “You can keep a conversation going, but it’s more of a huff and puff,” says Robert Linkul, CSCS, a personal trainer who specializes in working with older adults. “As you get fitter, you’ll be able to carry on conversations at a higher intensity,” he adds.  Depending on your fitness level, you may need to switch between bouts of faster and slower walking — and that’s OK. Pay attention to your body and back off if you’re struggling to maintain your pace. If you’re worried about keeping your balance at a faster pace, invest in a pair of hiking sticks. Walking with hiking sticks (also called Nordic walking) not only offers peace of mind, but it recruits your arm muscles.  “You have to push off with your arms, so you’re actually working harder with hiking sticks than without,” says Linkul. Learn more about Nordic walking, plus find expert tips to get started here Tip #2: Go Longer  If you’re not ready to walk faster, walk further. The more steps you get in, the better. Just be sure to increase your walking distance or duration gradually, as drastic changes can cause injury, cautions the National Institute on Aging.  If you’re just starting a walking routine, Linkul suggests doing 20 minutes twice per week for at least a month. From there, add a third day and go up to 30 minutes.  “By the third month, walk four times a week for 30 minutes or more and continue to build from there,” says Linkul.  Tip #3: Fuel Right Walking for weight loss takes more than bumping up intensity, time, or distance. It also requires keeping an eye on the foods you eat. Your body needs healthy foods to power through a walk. Plus, many people struggle to meet their nutritional needs as they age — our bodies simply can’t absorb or metabolize nutrients as efficiently. If you ignore your diet, there’s a good chance your body is missing out on the nutrients it needs to walk for weight loss, says Angel Planells, R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. To boost your walking performance, begin by making small improvements to your diet. Be sure to: 

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables 
  • Reach for whole grain foods like whole wheat bread instead of refined grains 
  • Prioritize protein in every meal 
  • Aim for variety in your diet — this ensures you get enough vitamins and minerals 
  • Cook at home as often as possible, as restaurant foods tend to be higher in sodium and harmful fats   

Tip #4: Stay Motivated It’s normal for motivation to dip after settling into a walking routine. Finding ways to stay motivated can help you stick with your plan.  

Here are a few ideas: 

  • Walk with a friend or family member (including four-legged ones!) 
  • Keep track of your progress — seeing improvements can motivate you to continue walking 
  • Reward yourself when you reach a goal by going to the movies, visiting a museum, or splurging on a massage 
  • Explore new walking trails in your area  

Tip #5: Talk to Your Health Care Team According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, you should aim for at least 150 minutes (2½ hours) of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, like walking, every week.  

But if you’re just starting to add walking to your routine, it’s a good idea to connect with your healthcare provider. This is especially true if you have ongoing health conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, or osteoporosis 

Ask your doctor how your health condition affects your ability to walk for exercise. Your doctor can also help you create a plan to safely increase the intensity or duration of your walks for weight loss.  

Be sure to tell your doctor about any symptoms you’ve been experiencing, such as chest pain, dizziness, joint pain, or shortness of breath. Your doctor may recommend addressing those symptoms before you begin a walking program.  


EATING THE MOST NUTRIENT-DENSE VEGETABLES | UPMC Health Beat

 

Vegetables packed with nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber are essential to a healthy diet.

But some vegetables, often called “nutrient-dense,” offer even more nutritional value per serving. Eating more nutrient-dense vegetables — or those loaded with high amounts of vitamins and minerals per bite — can help keep your body performing and your mind sharp.

These foods are usually less dense in calories, too, especially when compared to processed foods. They’re also versatile ingredients in just about any soup, salad, or entree.

“The vast majority of healthy eating plans include making vegetables the cornerstone of each meal,” says Cara Stewart, registered dietitian at UPMC.

Buy vegetables that are easy to prepare. Pick up bags of prewashed salad greens and add baby carrots or grape tomatoes for a salad in minutes.

Plan some meals around a vegetable main dish, such as a stir-fry or soup. Add veggies to dishes you already prepare, such as casseroles or lasagna.

Increasing your intake of nutrient-dense foods, including fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean meats, can help you maintain a healthy weight while promoting heart health and reducing your risk of diabetes and cancer.

Nutrient-Dense Vegetables

1. Watercress A powerful leafy green loaded with antioxidants, Watercress is a valuable addition to any soup, salad, or sandwich. Eating more watercress, which is notably high in vitamin K, vitamin C, and other nutrients, can lower the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It also contains minerals necessary for bone health, such as calcium and potassium. Vitamin K plays a key role in blood clotting and regulating blood calcium levels, and vitamin C boosts your immune system. For peak health benefits, you should eat watercress raw or steamed.

2. Spinach Adding spinach to your diet is one of the best things you can do for your body (if you haven’t already). Spinach can improve your eye, skin, bone, and immune health, help prevent cancer, reduce blood pressure, ease digestion, and foster healthy tissue growth. The vegetable is high in insoluble fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid, iron, and calcium. Consider swapping out traditional iceberg lettuce for spinach in your next salad, or add a serving to your next sandwich.

3. Kale This superfood has made a serious comeback on dinner tables in recent years, and for good reason. Kale is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin K, folate, potassium, calcium, and zinc. Adding a serving of kale to your plate can improve your eye and bone health, boost your immune system, protect brain development, lower cholesterol, and even help prevent cancer. Like most nutrient-dense vegetables, kale can help you maintain a healthy weight by keeping you full for longer with fewer calories.

4. Brussels Sprouts These round, nutrient-dense buds are high in fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin K. Eating plenty of Brussels sprouts promotes iron absorption, tissue repair, immune function, and gut and bone health. It may even help protect against chronic inflammation, cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. Even better, there are countless ways to add Brussels sprouts to your diet, including roasting them with garlic as a savory side dish or baking them in a zesty lemon sauce.

5. Turnip Greens Like kale, turnip greens are high in vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, and folate. Not only can the vegetable help boost your immune system, protect your eyes and bones, and help stave off cancer, but it can also help keep your skin and hair looking great. Vitamin A fosters the growth of bodily tissues, including skin and hair — keeping both healthy and moisturized. Turnip greens also contain choline, which helps with sleep, learning, and memory. You can add raw turnip greens to salads, sandwiches, wraps, and soups or cook them in casseroles, or sautéed in a sauce of your choice.

6. Broccoli Broccoli is chock-full of antioxidants that reduce inflammation, improve blood sugar levels, boost immunity, and keep your heart healthy. Brimming with fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, and potassium, Broccoli also has high levels of a potent antioxidant that may lower cholesterol, oxidative stress, and chronic disease development. Uncontrolled oxidative stress can speed up the aging process and may contribute to a number of chronic conditions. Nutritionists say broccoli is best eaten raw or lightly steamed to maximize its health benefits. Add a dash of fresh garlic — another nutrient-dense veggie — for taste.

7. Asparagus Asparagus is full of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, folate, iron, potassium, calcium, and protein. It supports gut health, lowers blood pressure, eases inflammation, and helps prevent chronic disease. It can also help prevent urinary tract infections by working as a natural diuretic, flushing excess fluid, bacteria, and salt from your body. You can roast, steam, boil, grill, or even eat the long, thin vegetable raw. Try roasted asparagus seasoned with garlic, lemon, and Parmesan cheese, or toss it into a salad or pasta dish.

8. Carrots Carrots are rich in dietary carotenoids, which maintain the body’s immune system and promote healthy skin and aging. Much of this becomes vitamin A in the intestines, which is essential for growth and eye health. Adding carrots to your diet may also support cholesterol balance, heart health, and gut health. You can enjoy them raw as a snack, dipped in dressing, tossed in salads, cooked in soups, or included in a host of warm, cozy recipes.

9. Garlic Studies have linked diets that are rich in garlic to a reduced risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders, blood pressure, and diabetes thanks to the plant’s antioxidant-dense, anti-inflammatory properties. Fresh garlic contains a chemical called alliin, which offers a range of health benefits when converted inside the body, including antibiotic properties that help fight infection. You can convert the alliin in raw garlic to allicin (which is the form of alliin that can provide these benefits) by chewing, crushing, or slicing it. You can also add it to any number of dishes, especially sprinkled on top or mixed into spicy, flavorful Italian dishes.

10. Green Peas Although these starchy vegetables are higher in calories and carbs than others on this list, they’re bursting with fiber, protein, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate. This means they can strengthen your immune system, keep your energy levels high, support digestive health, and reduce your risk of chronic illness.


8 TIPS FOR WORKING OUT IN THE HEAT | Penn Musculoskeletal and Rheumatology Blog

The heat can be a major drawback for people looking to work out in the summer. If you’re not careful, you can end up suffering from a heat-related health condition such as a heat stroke, heat exhaustion or extreme dehydration, all of which can greatly derail you from your fitness goals.

Fortunately, we have some tips to help you to safely work out on even the hottest of summer days.

Take a cold shower Before your workout even begins you may want to take a cold shower. Once you finish your shower, ditch the blow dryer and opt for a wet head to help you to stay cool during your workout.

Stay hydrated with the RIGHT fluids Water is your best friend on a hot day for staying hydrated; however, if you’re planning to exercise for more than 60 minutes, you may also want to consider sipping on a sports drinks.

Sports drinks are important when working out for prolonged periods of time, especially in the heat, because they contain potassium and electrolytes that can rehydrate and replenish your body. The high levels of sodium may actually be good for your body as well as sodium is a key ingredient for a hot day.

As with everything, moderation is key.

Wear light clothing Bright colors are good since they will reflect the sun and also help to make you more visible to oncoming traffic. Cotton is a light-weight and affordable material that can help you to stay dry.

If you’re willing to splurge a bit more, opt for sweat-wicking shirts and shorts to keep the sweat at bay.

Don’t forget the sunscreen Nothing is worse than trying to complete a summer workout with a bad sun burn that makes it hard to move. Stop the burn before it occurs by slathering on the sunscreen. Opt for s sunscreen with an SPF of at least 50 and one that is water-proof so that it doesn’t come off once you start sweating.

Timing is everything 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. is known for being the hottest time of the day in the summer. If you’re planning an outdoor workout, try to do it either before or after this time slot. Many athletes prefer to work out earlier in the morning as it can help them to stay energized throughout the day and to sleep better at night.

Don’t fear the water Summer is the perfect time to make water your friend. On especially hot days, try adding a water activity to your workout such as swimming, surfing or Stand-Up-Paddle Boarding (SUP). These activities will help you to stay fit and healthy in the summer in a fun and new way while also staying cool. Who knows, you may end up finding a new favorite exercise.

Prefer to run instead? No worries, you can still get in on the water action. Next time you see what looks like a “rainy day”, opt to run with the rain rather than against it. Running during a rainy day can help you to stay cool and many athletes find these workouts to be invigorating and refreshing.

The key for successfully running in the rain is to be prepared. Wear bright clothing and make sure all of your clothing is water-proof (this includes shoes and accessories such as a cell-phone case). Avoid running around cars that may have trouble seeing you.

Running in a little bit of rain won’t harm you, but if you see lightening or hear thunder, you’ll want to return inside to safety as quickly as possible.

Take it indoors There’s nothing wrong with working out indoors at your local gym or even in your home if you have equipment. On days when there is an excessive heat warning, this can be your best decision to stay cool and avoid a heat-related injury while still getting in your workout.

Know your limits Listen to your body and if you begin to feel dizzy, nauseous, or tired, give yourself a break. Taking some time off for rest is better than overdoing your workout and getting sick or injured and having to stop working out altogether.

If the summer heat proves to be too much of a challenge for your standard high-intensity workout, break it up into multiple smaller workouts throughout the day. This will allow your body time to rest and refuel without jeopardizing your fitness and workout goals.

Have fun and stay cool – and safe – this summer!


10 HEAD-TO-TOE FLEXIBILITY EXERCISES TO DO EVERY DAY | Julia Sullivan, SilverSneakers 

These dynamic and static stretches are designed to help you move through workouts—and daily life—with increased confidence and stability.When it comes to workouts, you’re probably familiar with the two main types: cardiovascular (or aerobic) exercises like walking, running, and swimming, and resistance-based exercises like strength training.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults of all ages engage in both on a weekly basis.

And while following that recommendation is crucial to staving off disease, those aren’t the only exercises older adults should include in their routine. In fact, there are two other types of workouts you should be doing daily: flexibility and mobility exercises. 

Flexibility and mobility tend to go hand-in-hand, but they are two different things. Here’s a breakdown on each:

  • Flexibility, according to the International Sports Science Association (ISSA), refers to the ability for soft muscle tissue to stretch. (For example, this would describe how far you are able to extend your arms toward your toes before your hamstrings start to tighten.) 
  • Mobility is a term used to describe a joint’s ability to move in its full range of motion. (Your ability to keep your hamstrings parallel to the floor during a squat is an example of hip mobility.)

How Flexibility and Mobility Are Linked If a muscle isn’t flexible, it can prevent a corresponding joint from reaching its full range of motion (or mobility). Your muscles and joints rely on each other to help execute exercises — and general daily movement — safely.

In a study from the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, adults over age 65 who performed mobility and flexibility exercises for 12 weeks improved their overall balance and reduced their risk of falling.

And there are therapeutic benefits, too. Research from the Journal of Physical Therapy Science noted that folks who’d previously had strokes improved their ability to perform “activities of daily living” through regular flexibility and mobility work.

The best part: It’s easy to boost your flexibility and mobility. One way to do it is through a mix of static and dynamic stretches. Try these 10 head-to-toe moves to keep your joints and muscles working to their full potential.

10 Head-to-Toe Mobility and Flexibility Exercises to Do Every Day

For these exercises, you’ll need:

  • A sturdy chair
  • A yoga mat or towel (optional)
  • Comfortable shoes and clothes

As always, safety is key. Get your doctor’s OK before beginning a new exercise program. If you have a chronic condition (including osteoporosis), balance issues, or injuries, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.

1. Active Shoulder Roll Seated Stretch

How to do it:

  1. Sit tall in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Let your arms hang at your sides. 
  2. Squeeze your chest to press your shoulders forward, then raise your shoulders up toward your ears. 
  3. Next, squeeze your upper back to pinch your shoulder blades together, then pull your shoulders down to finish the circle. 
  4. Repeat, this time moving in the opposite direction. 
  5. Do two or three slow shoulder rolls in each direction.  

2. Rounded Back Seated Stretch

How to do it:

  1. Sit tall in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. 
  2. Lean slightly forward to place your hands on your knees with arms extended. 
  3. From there, press down on your knees to round your back, bringing your chin toward your chest as you do. 
  4. Tuck your tailbone slightly, imagining that you’re forming the letter C with your upper body. Hold for 15 seconds, taking slow, deep breaths, and then release. 
  5. Do two or three 15-second holds total.

3. Cat Cow 

How to do it:  

  1. Start on all fours with your hands below shoulders and knees below hips. You can also do this exercise while seated in a sturdy chair. 
  2. Slowly round your back up toward the ceiling (like a cat) while tucking your chin toward your tailbone.    
  3. Then reverse the movement by arching your back (think about a cow) while lifting your hips and head.    
  4. Form tip: Focus on raising your head and tailbone to get into the cow position rather than dumping into your lower back.   
  5. Alternate between cat and cow for a slow 10 reps — five with back rounded, five with back arched.  
  6. Rest and repeat 2 to 3 more times. 

4. Quadruped Rotation 

How to do it: 

  1. Start on all fours with your hands below your shoulders and your knees below your hips. You can also do this exercise while seated in a sturdy chair.
  2. Place your right hand behind your head and then rotate your torso to point your right elbow toward the ceiling, as far as is comfortable.  
  3. Pause, then slowly lower back down, pointing your right elbow to the floor. That’s 1 rep.  
  4. Do 5 reps, then repeat on the other side. 

Cautionary note: If you have osteoporosis, twisting and bending moves may not be right for you. Talk to your doctor about safe exercise. 

5. Figure-4 Seated Stretch 

How to do it: 

  1. Sit tall in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.  
  2. Cross one ankle over your opposite thigh, just above your knee.  
  3. Gently press the knee of your raised leg down toward the floor, allowing your torso to lean forward slightly as you do.  
  4. Hold there for 15 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.  
  5. Do two or three 15-second holds per side. 

6. Seated Hamstring Stretch

How to do it: 

  1. Sit or stand tall, and shift your weight to your right leg.  
  2. Extend your left leg in front of you with your toes up and your heel on the ground.  
  3. Keep a slight bend in your right knee, and place your hands on your right thigh or your hips.  
  4. From here, keep your chest lifted as you hinge forward slightly at your hips to feel a stretch in the back of your left thigh.  
  5. Hold here, and then repeat on the other side. 

7. Behind-the-Back Seated Stretch

How to do it:  

  1. Sit tall in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Let both arms hang down at your sides.  
  2. Keeping your shoulders back and down away from your ears, place the back of one hand on the small of your back.  
  3. Hold for 15 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.  
  4. Do two or three 15-second holds per side. 

8. Cross-Chest Seated Stretch 

How to do it:  

  1. Sit tall in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.  
  2. Cross one arm in front of your chest and place your opposite hand on your upper (crossed) arm for support.  
  3. If it feels good, you can gently apply pressure to your arm to increase the stretch.  
  4. Hold for 15 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.  
  5. Do two or three 15-second holds per side. 

9. Overhead Triceps Seated Stretch

How to do it:  

  1. Sit tall in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.  
  2. Raise one arm overhead and bend your elbow to lower your palm between your shoulder blades, as far as you comfortably can.  
  3. Place your opposite hand on your raised elbow for support.  
  4. If it feels good, you can gently press on your elbow to increase the stretch.  
  5. Hold for 15 seconds, then switch sides and repeat.  
  6. Do two or three 15-second holds per side. 

10. Finger Extension Stretch 

How to do it:  

  1. Sit in a chair with your forearm resting on a table, palm down.  
  2. Relax the hand you’re stretching and use your other hand to straighten your fingers at all three joints, allowing your fingers to raise up off the table.  
  3. Hold the stretch for a few seconds, then relax and repeat.  
  4. Do 10 reps. 

Tip: Move slowly and keep your wrist straight during the exercise.  


WHY FOAM ROLLING IS ESSENTIAL FOR BUILDING MUSCLE | Siobhan Colgan, SPARTAN

Foam rolling is incredibly common for athletes to use to loosen their muscles at the start of a workout or enhance their recovery at the tail-end of training. But an effective self-myofascial release (SMR) technique (the technical term for foam rolling) shouldn’t just be viewed as an addition to a warm-up or a cool-down — it’s also essential for building muscle.

Let’s be clear, though. A workout consisting solely of foam rolling will not earn you the shredded quads required to climb any mountainous courses, nor the sheer strength to swing effortlessly from obstacles. But what it can do, as Spartan SGX coach Sean Hastings explains, is relieve some tightness and tenderness that you might feel in your muscles pre- or post-workout, and allow greater efficiency in your next training session. This, in turn, will help to build lean muscle mass.

“Our muscles, tendons, and other tissues are surrounded by fascia, and this fascia can get all bound up, particularly in training — think crumpled-up like plastic wrap,” Hastings, owner of Spartan-focused Revolution Fitness, says. “This contributes to pain, reduces flexibility, and prolongs recovery.

“When you foam roll, you’re flattening the fascia back to normal. This process reduces pain, helps increase flexibility, and speeds up recovery.”

It’s during recovery that muscles have time to strengthen and grow. An accelerated recovery process not only supports this, but can directly enhance the quality of your workouts as well. How? By enabling you to return to your workouts with muscles that are repaired, relaxed, and with a healthy range of motion.

The Science Behind Foam Rolling Studies have shown that foam rolling can minimize delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This not only allows you to get back to training quicker, but because you’ve conquered your pain, you can boost your actual performance.

Another comprehensive review published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy explains how foam rolling stimulates short-term increases in range of motion, which contributes to an increase in muscle flexibility. This, again, promotes more efficient workouts.

Tricking Your Nervous System Into Relieving Pain But foam rolling might not just be about ironing out the fascia knots. It’s possible that what’s actually going on is a combination of myofascial release and neurological changes occurring within the muscles. Hastings notes that actual nerve receptors in an achy area might be stimulated through foam rolling.

“If the area is particularly painful, it’s good to keep the roller right there,” he says. “After a short period, the pain will subside and you may even feel a release.”

This release is likely caused by the pressure of the foam roller telling the nervous system to reduce pain signals from the muscle. But however foam rolling works to reduce tightness and ease pain, the bottom line is that it does work. And in doing both, it can also help to reduce muscle imbalances, which — besides messing with your ability to build strength — can also lead to reduced mobility, instability, and even injury.

So, what are the best foam rolling exercises to not only maintain muscle balance but to build it, too?

Truthfully, as Hastings says, it’s best to target wherever the pain and tightness are hitting before or after a workout. But a few places that you should always work on to ensure a full range of motion (and therefore an optimal chance of building lean muscle) include your hips, calves, quads, and spine. Here are a few simple ways to start.

Foam Rolling Exercise for Hips

  • Place a foam roller on the ground.
  • Lie over it facing downward, and position the roller just below the crease of one of your hips.
  • Angle the opposite leg out to the side by 45-90 degrees. You’ll use this leg to apply pressure to the opposite side.
  • Leaning on your elbows and forearms, roll back and forth on the foam roller, staying just below the hip crease.
  • Keep your weight on your toes, hands, and the foam roller.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

Foam Rolling Exercise for Calves

  • Work on one leg at a time.
  • Place the roller under your lower leg and sit flat on the ground. Using the opposite leg and both arms planted with your hands down on either side of you, push your body off of the ground.
  • As you’re doing this, put pressure on the calf that you’re trying to work on.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

Foam Rolling Exercise for Quads

  • Lie face down with a foam roller under your left thigh and above your knee.
  • Using your arms and your right leg, begin to move your body up and down at least three or four times. Stop halfway up your left thigh as you do this.
  • Then, as comfortably as you can, bend your left leg back and forth slowly so that you’re bringing your left heel close to your butt.
  • Following this, roll up to the top of the thigh and back three or four times.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

Foam Rolling Exercise for Spinal Alignment

  • Place the roller horizontally across your upper back, just below your shoulder blades.
  • Bend your knees and place your feet firmly on the floor.
  • Interlace your fingers at the base of your skull and lean backward.
  • Raise your hips slightly to move the roller up toward your shoulders.
  • Focus on sensitive areas for at least 30 seconds.
  • Work your way up to your shoulders, then work your way down to your mid-back again. Try not to move the roller lower than your mid-back area.

5 EPIC BENEFITS OF ADDING SWIMMING TO YOUR TRAINING PLAN | Siobhan Colgan, SPARTAN

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.

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.

“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.

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.

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.


5 HUGE BENEFITS OF STRETCHING | Jacqueline Kaminski, NASM

“Make sure you stretch!” – Something we often hear before or after we participate in any sort of exercise. But is stretching that good for you? What exactly are the benefits of having a regular stretching routine? Let’s explore the benefits of stretching below.

5 BENEFITS OF STRETCHING

#1 INCREASING FLEXIBILTY TO PREVENT INJURY By increasing flexibility, or engaging in regular flexibility training, we can reduce the risk of muscle imbalances. When muscle imbalances exist, the body will take the path of least resistance when it comes to performing various movement patterns. This leads to poor posture, which leads to improper movement and form, which increases the risk for injury.

#2 REDUCING INFLAMMATION Flexibility training can reduce inflammation! Poor posture and repetitive movements that decrease or antagonize the body’s range of motion are treated by the body as an injury. As a result, the body will try and heal that injury.
Injury induces inflammation in the body, and as a protective mechanism, the body will increase muscle tension to prevent further injury. That increase in muscle tension increases muscle adhesions (commonly known as “knots”), which further decrease the normal movement or elasticity of your muscle.

#3 IMPROVING STRENGTH Flexibility can improve your strength and performance in physical activities. The goal of flexibility is to have control of your muscles in a full range of motion. So, improving your flexibility is also improving your strength! Furthermore, if your muscles are sore or stiff you may not be able to engage in explosive movements or perform as well during your training.

#4 FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT Flexibility allows for freedom of movement to perform everyday activities such as bending over to tie your shoes, lifting groceries, and vacuuming the floor. These are things that can become more difficult as we age, so we want to regularly engage in a stretching routine, so these everyday activities don’t become difficult.

#5 RELAXATION AND RELIEF Stretching provides relaxation and relief! Which is not only beneficial physically, but mentally as well!

THE TYPES OF STRETCHING

SELF-MYOFASCIAL RELEASE (SMR) This form of stretching involves using items such as a foam roller, lacrosse balls, and similar objects to reduce trigger points, or “knots”, within muscles. When muscles are tight or have “knots”, gentle pressure can help release these “knots” to allow the muscle fibers to return to a straighter alignment and release pressure.

When performing a myofascial release, it’s important that when you find a “trigger point”, that you hold pressure on that area for a minimum of 30 seconds. This is a great form of stretching to use before exercise and even before other forms of stretching!

STATIC STRETCHING is probably the most commonly known form of stretching. It involves lengthening a muscle to its furthest point and holding that position for a minimum of 30 seconds. This type of stretching can help lengthen overactive, or tight muscles, and there’s evidence to show this type of stretching increases flexibility over time if performed daily.

ACTIVE STRETCHING is a form of stretching in which you use the strength of a certain muscle group to lengthen or stretch an opposing muscle group. Yoga is a great example in which certain poses require activation or contraction of certain muscle groups as a way to stretch the opposing muscle. Active stretching can help increase range of motion and is a great warm-up activity before initiating high-intensity exercise or sports competition.

DYNAMIC STRETCHING is movement-based stretching. It requires working muscles through a range of motion to increase flexibility and mobility. Unlike static and active stretching, these poses are not held. Dynamic stretching is also a great form of stretching to warm up muscle groups before initiating high-intensity exercise or sports competition.

STARTING A STRETCHING ROUTINE

If you’re new to stretching, it’s important to start slow. Flexibility exercise via a stretching routine can be started at any age! And improvements can be seen as early as 3 weeks if performing a stretching routine regularly.

When starting a stretching routine, it’s important to keep note of a few things:
1. When stretching, major muscle groups around the shoulders, chest, neck, lower back, hips, legs, and ankles should be targeted.

2. You should engage in a stretching routine at minimum 2-3x/week.

3. When beginning, hold static stretches for 10-30 seconds. But the goal is to hold each stretch for a minimum of 60 seconds.

4. Repeat stretches 2-4 times to get optimal benefits!

The type of stretching you should incorporate will largely depend on your experience and fitness level, but at some point, every form should be utilized.

When starting, warm up your muscles with foam rolling and perform 5-6 different static stretches. Holding each one for at least 10 seconds, and gradually build your way up to 60 seconds.

Start by allocating 5 minutes of stretching to a warm-up or cool down after your regular exercise routine. On days you don’t exercise, still spend about 5-10 minutes stretching when you have free time to loosen up tension in your body.

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO STRETCH?

You can stretch at any time in the day! However, muscles tend to be tighter when we just wake up so it’s important to warm up with a light jog or dynamic movements before getting into static stretching if choosing to stretch first thing in the morning.

Stretching at night and before bed can also help improve sleep! Some studies have shown that a light stretching routine in the late evening or right before sleep helped improve sleep quality in people with mild sleep disorders.

HEALTH RISKS OF STRETCHING: CAN YOU OVERDO IT?

Stretching involves lengthening a muscle to its furthest point. Therefore, a muscle can sometimes be stretched beyond this point, and without proper preparation, it can lead to overstretching. While this is unlikely, it is still possible.

To prevent overstretching from occurring, make sure you properly warm up either through dynamic motions, light activity, or foam rolling before engaging in any intense form of stretching. Forcing muscles that are tight into a lengthened position very quickly can cause micro-tears in your muscles. This will cause inflammation and injury and limit mobility for some time. Something that would be counterproductive to improving flexibility!

THE TAKEAWAY

Stretching is an important aspect of any fitness routine whether you’re an elite-level athlete or starting an exercise program for the first time. Improving flexibility has various health benefits that will improve quality of life and increase overall fitness and performance.

It’s never a bad idea to reach out to a certified personal trainer before beginning a flexibility or stretching program to get ideas on what will be most beneficial for you and your goals.


HOW SETTING SMART GOALS CAN HELP WITH WEIGHT LOSS | UPMC Health Beat

Developing healthy habits that lead to long-term weight management can feel overwhelming at times, but setting SMART goals is a great strategy for staying on track.

Weight Loss Goals SMART goals are goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely or sustainable short-term objectives that become long-term gains over time.

SMART principles can meet just about any type of personal or professional goal, including an academic achievement, work promotion, or weight-loss aspiration.

By setting clear, concrete goals and identifying how you’ll meet them, you’re more likely to stay motivated. One study suggests people are 42% more likely to achieve a goal just by writing it down, and American Psychological Association research finds that frequently checking in on a goal’s progress boosts your chances of meeting it.

You can set a few SMART goals at a time each week or month, but be careful to make sure they are all, indeed, achievable tasks.

What Does SMART stand for? Here’s how it works. Set goals that are:

  • Specific: Set a goal that is as specific as possible. What will you do? How will you do it? Rather than saying “I will be more active,” or “I will eat healthier,” you would say “I will run for 30 minutes a day,” or “I will reduce my sodium intake by (X amount).”
  • Measurable: You should track your goals so you know if you’re reaching them. By setting firm numbers like amount, duration, and frequency, it’s easier to hold yourself accountable. For example, “I will take the dog on a 30-minute walk around the neighborhood after dinner each weeknight this month.”
  • Achievable: Set short-term goals that you know are attainable in that time frame. Rather than setting a long-term goal to lose 50 pounds, commit yourself to losing 4 pounds a month. It may help to focus goals on specific behaviors like diet, hydration, exercise, sleep, and substance use (caffeine, alcohol consumption) rather than weight loss itself.
  • Realistic: Set a goal you’re confident isn’t too easy or too hard to achieve with your given resources, time, and support. For example, don’t commit to a climbing expedition across the country in a month if you know you’re not ready physically or financially for such a feat. Instead, set incremental goals (“I will complete 1 mile on my gym’s stair climber four nights a week this month”) that will help you ultimately fulfill that larger goal. Goals should align with a person’s long-term objectives.
  • Timely: Set a firm date to start and reach your short-term goals. This can help keep you motivated while giving you confidence when you meet each objective. When you meet a certain goal, you can set a new one that builds on your newly attained physical or nutritional success. Remember, the body doesn’t function well in sustained extremes, so setting rigorous physical or dietary goals from the get-go will reduce your likelihood of success.

You can continue to set these goals on a weekly or monthly basis for as long as you like. With each success, allow yourself a small reward in the form of a day trip or a new outfit — choose what fits your lifestyle and budget!

Examples of SMART goals to develop healthy diet and exercise habits may include:

  • Replacing soda or sugary drinks with water during breakfast and lunch each day for one week.
  • Eating fruit and whole grains for breakfast each morning for one week.
  • Eating five servings of vegetables each day for two weeks.
  • Walking 30 minutes a day after dinner for one week.
  • Using endurance and strength equipment at the gym for 30 minutes four times a week for two weeks.
  • Eating out at a restaurant only once a week for a month by bringing lunch to work and cooking at home.
  • Going to sleep by 11 p.m. each night and waking up by 7 a.m. each day for a month.
  • Meditating 10 minutes a day five days a week for one month.
  • Adding one serving of fruit to your daily intake.
  • Completing 15 push-ups a day for one week.
  • Running 1 mile four times a week for two weeks.
  • Running 30 minutes a day five times a week for a month beginning in April.
  • Losing 4 pounds or a certain percentage of body fat in one month through SMART dieting and exercise goals.

SHORT WALKS AFTER MEALS CAN CUT DIABETES, HEART RISKS | WebMD

Taking a brief walk after eating can help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart problems, according to a recent study published in Sports Medicine.

Light walking after a meal – even for 2 to 5 minutes – can reduce blood sugar and insulin levels, the researchers found.

Blood sugar levels spike after eating, and the insulin produced to control them can lead to diabetes and cardiovascular issues, the researchers explained.

“With standing and walking, there are contractions of your muscles” that use glucose and lower blood sugar levels, Aidan Buffey, the lead study author and a PhD student in physical education and sport sciences at the University of Limerick, told The Times.

“If you can do physical activity before the glucose peak, typically 60 to 90 minutes [after eating], that is when you’re going to have the benefit of not having the glucose spike,” he said.

Buffey and colleagues looked at seven studies to understand what would happen if you used standing or easy walking to interrupt prolonged sitting.

In five of the studies, none of the participants had prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. The other two studies included people with and without diabetes. The people in the studies were asked to either stand or walk for 2 to 5 minutes every 20 to 30 minutes over the course of a full day.All seven studies showed that standing after a meal is better than sitting, and taking a short walk offered even better health benefits. Those who stood up for a short period of time after a meal had improved blood sugar levels but not insulin, while those who took a brief walk after a meal had lower blood sugar and insulin levels. Those who walked also had blood sugar levels that rose and fell more gradually, which is critical for managing diabetes.

Going for a walk, doing housework, or finding other ways to move your body within 60 to 90 minutes after eating could offer the best results, the study authors concluded.

These “mini-walks” could also be useful during the workday to break up prolonged periods of sitting at a desk.

“People are not going to get up and run on a treadmill or run around the office,” Buffey told The New York Times.But making mini-walks a normal thing during the workday could be easy and acceptable at the office, he said. Even if people can’t take walks, standing up will help somewhat.

“Each small thing you do will have benefits, even if it is a small step,” Kershaw Patel, MD, a preventive cardiologist at Houston Methodist Hospital, told the newspaper. Patel wasn’t involved with the study.

“It’s a gradual effect of more activity, better health,” he said. “Each incremental step, each incremental stand or brisk walk appears to have a benefit.”


REDUCE BACK PAIN BY SLEEPING POSITION | UPMC Health Beat

There’s nothing quite like a good night’s sleep to leave you feeling refreshed in the morning. Unless, of course, you deal with back pain so uncomfortable it disrupts your sleep schedule.

The average adult will spend approximately one-third of their life sleeping. Most people take this normal activity for granted, but for those with back pain, sleeping can often cause significant discomfort. Pain can keep you awake for hours at a time and can worsen other chronic conditions. However, it is possible to get a good night’s rest and help relieve back pain with proper sleeping strategies.

It’s all about where and how you sleep. Finding the most supportive and comfortable sleeping position is vital when fighting back pain. Starting with the three most common sleeping positions, the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at UPMC offers specific suggestions to reduce back pain and get you well-rested.

Sleeping on Your Side Sleeping on your side is one of the more common and most supportive positions. If this is your preferred sleeping style, bring your legs toward your chest at a slight angle and place a pillow between your knees. This can help alleviate some of the pressure on your back by preventing the spine from rotating.

Sleeping on Your Back If you sleep on your back, it is important to maintain its natural curve. Supporting the back’s positioning can help reduce pain because the muscles endure less stress. Try placing a pillow:

  • Under the knees
  • Under the neck

This can help reduce the pressure on your back while also cushioning your joints.

Sleeping on Your Stomach If you sleep on your stomach, you may find your sleep particularly painful. This sleeping position is not recommended for those with back pain because it places significant strain on the back. If you find this position most comfortable, take extra care to support yourself. Place a pillow:

  • Below the abdomen and lower pelvis
  • Below the neck

If you find the pillow below the neck places a strain on your back, try sleeping with your head directly on your bed.

More Helpful Tips

With the proper support, you may find you feel more rested and comfortable after a good night’s sleep. If your current sleeping position is causing you pain, change it up but remember to cushion where appropriate.

In addition to perfecting your sleeping position, the following activities can improve your quality of sleep and also reduce back pain:

  • Buying a firm bed
  • Buying a body pillow specially designed for those with back pain or sciatica
  • Exercising
  • Taking mild over-the-counter pain medications
  • Applying heat or cold patches to your back

If back pain is interfering with your sleep quality, consult a medical professional. Back pain can be chronic or acute but requires proper evaluation and management at all levels.


HOW OLDER ADULTS CAN GET STARTED WITH SPORTS | UPMC Health Beat

Scan the pickleball courts, the aquatic centers, the golf courses, and the Silver Sneakers classes. You’ll find older adults exercising and living their best life. You may even find them running marathons and participating in extreme sports.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, life expectancy in the U.S. has largely risen over the last four decades, with a few exceptions. This, coupled with more access to sports and activities, has led to an increase in older people participating in activities their parents or grandparents may never have dreamed of at that age.

There are so many sports for older adults today — and with good reason. Regular exercise reduces the risk for cancer and heart disease. It also helps prevent muscle and bone loss that happen with age.

It even helps to boost your mood. Plus, for many older adults, it’s an important social activity.

Whether you’ve tried a class geared toward older adults or you’re searching for sports for seniors, here are some suggestions.

Recommended Exercise Guidelines for Older Adults

According to the Centers for Disease Control, people who are 65 and older should aim for:

  • 150 minutes (that’s 30 minutes, five days each week) of moderate aerobic activity. Brisk walking counts as moderate exercise. Alternatively, you could get 75 minutes a week of high intensity exercise, like running.
  • Muscle-strengthening exercises (like a core exercise class, aquatic class, or lifting weights) twice a week.
  • Balance exercises three times/week (like standing on one foot).

In an August 2022 JAMA article, researchers compared the guidelines with data from a national health survey where the respondents had an average age of 70. They found that older adults who met the guidelines for aerobic activity had a 13% lower risk of death.

The study was notable because researchers often focus on the health benefits of exercise in younger adults. But this one focused on the benefits of exercise for older adults.

Sports With the Greatest Health Benefits for Older Adults

In the study, researchers catalogued the different types of exercise that older adults said they participated in. The main ones that people mentioned were:

  • Running/jogging.
  • Walking.
  • Aerobics or weight training classes.
  • Racquet sports, like tennis and pickleball.
  • Cycling (either outside or inside on an exercise bike).
  • Swimming.
  • Golf.
  • Walking.

The two sports for seniors that saw the greatest mortality risk reduction were racquet sports and running/jogging.

But there’s good news. Scientists found that all activities provided some benefits. That was true even if people were short of the recommended 150 minutes/week. Hitting the guidelines is best, but any activity is better than none.

Ultimately, the best sport for you is the one you will stick with. Here are a few that we know are popular among seniors.

Pickleball, Anyone? If you’re inclined to try a racquet sport, you might consider pickleball. It’s a combination of badminton, tennis, and table tennis. Players use paddles to hit a wiffle-like ball over a net.

Pickleball has taken off because it combines exercise, fun, and socializing. It’s one of Forbes top recommended sports for seniors.

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) even sponsored a study on pickleball. Researchers found that what makes pickleball so attractive is that participants can decide the intensity. It can be easy or fast-paced, and as competitive as players want.

The study found that regular participation in pickleball helped players meet exercise intensity guidelines. But it was more than that. “The research team observed a lot of socializing, conversation, and laughter before, during, and after the pickleball matches,” the study says.

That matters, said the lead author, Lance Dallek. “This type of social support is tremendously valuable when it comes to long-term adherence,” he said.

The JCC offers Pickleball in both the Squirrel Hill and South Hills locations. 

Walk This Way According to the National Council on Aging, people who regularly walk with someone else are more likely to stick with walking. Meeting a friend or neighbor each day for a walk helps you stay accountable. It also inspires conversation and connection.

Walking has tremendous benefits for everyone, but especially older adults. Aiming for 10,000 steps (about five miles) can be especially beneficial.

A 2023 study in Circulation looked at older adults who walked 6,000 to 9,000 steps a day (three to four miles). Researchers found they were 40% to 50% less likely to have a heart attack than those who walked 2,000 steps.

Try an Exercise Class There are many types of exercise classes geared to seniors at YMCAs, JCCs, and community centers across the country. A few include:

  • Fit & Strong: A community-based fitness program geared toward older adults who have arthritis.
  • Silver Sneakers: A fitness program that helps older adults stay active through fun fitness classes. They also offer on-demand classes.

Check out the JCC’s large slate of fitness classes for older adults HERE

Hit the Pool Swimming has the benefit of being easier on your joints. It can be a gentler movement, but still challenging enough to work your muscles.

The pool also offers an endless array of possibilities. You can swim laps or focus on treading water. You can also take water fitness classes, where you do resistance exercises.

Check out the JCC’s aquatics fitness and swimming schedules HERE 

How Older Adults Can Get Started with Exercise

Among the many sports you can try are golf, dancing, hiking, biking, Pilates, yoga, and tai chi. But the number one thing to keep in mind when you try a new activity is to start slowly. Too much, too fast can lead to injury or burnout.

A few other tips to keep in mind:

  • Make sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water during your workout. This is important year-round, but especially in warmer temperatures.
  • Warm up and cool down. This lets your heart rate increase and decrease more steadily.
  • Set attainable goals and ladder up to bigger goals. If your goal is to walk five miles, start with one mile, and add on five minutes each time.
  • Consider keeping an exercise log or using a fitness tracker. Being able to see your progress can be motivating.
  • Always discuss your exercise plans with your doctor first, especially any concerns you may have.

6 HEALTHFUL EATING TIPS TO CONSIDER DURING PASSOVER | Beth Warren, MS, RDN, CDN, eatright.org Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Seima Horvitz, “Seima’s Family Seder,” undated oil on canvas, private collection

Pray, drink, eat: it’s a typical Passover routine. The Jewish religious holiday often brings with it bigger meals, later mealtimes, sweet treats, socialized eating with loved ones and less physical activity. For individuals who are concerned about holiday traditions affecting their eating habits, rest assured, there are ways to eat healthfully during Passover.

Choose Whole Grains Whole grains are fantastic carbohydrate choices for your health because they keep you full and satisfied. Luckily, several whole-grain products are permitted during Passover, including, spelt and whole-wheat matzo, farfel and whole wheat matzo meal. Quinoa is another increasingly popular — and permitted — food that can be incorporated into your meal served as a grain.

Eat Breakfast Eating a balanced breakfast may help prevent overeating at later meals. Instead of eating five pieces of matzo with cream cheese on Passover mornings, choose plain Greek yogurt mixed with fresh fruit and a few small pieces of whole-wheat matzo for added crunch. Another great choice comes right off the leftovers of your Seder table: the hard-boiled egg. Or, try an omelet with added vegetables for a source of protein and some dietary fiber.

Aim for Balance While you may not be able to avoid eating the late-night feast during the Seders, you can aim for balanced meals throughout the day to prevent overeating in the evening. Choose moderate portions of fruit and vegetables with low-fat dairy or a lean protein food for your meals and snacks to help you meet different nutrient needs for the day.

Plan for Dessert If you choose to include treats, be sure you are making a mindful choice. It’s easy to overeat and reach for more on an impulse.

Strategize the Meal To maintain a balanced, portion-controlled meal, fill half your plate with vegetables and fruit, about one-quarter with lean protein and one-quarter whole grains. And, take your time while eating. By eating more slowly, you give your brain time to register that you are full and satisfied before overeating.

Stay Active You may find it difficult to get a full workout in during Passover but movement is just as important during holidays as it is every day of the year. Try incorporating physical activity into your day in practical ways, such as short walks.


 

SEASONAL ALLERGIES: NIP THEM IN THE BUD | Mayo Clinic Staff

Relieve seasonal allergies with these tried-and-true techniques.

Spring means flower buds and blooming trees — and if you’re one of the millions of people who have seasonal allergies, it also means sneezing, congestion, a runny nose and other bothersome symptoms. Seasonal allergies — also called hay fever and allergic rhinitis — can make you miserable. But before you settle for plastic flowers and artificial turf, try these simple strategies to keep seasonal allergies under control.

Reduce your exposure to allergy triggers

To reduce your exposure to the things that trigger your allergy signs and symptoms (allergens):

  • Stay indoors on dry, windy days. The best time to go outside is after a good rain, which helps clear pollen from the air.
  • Avoid lawn mowing, weed pulling and other gardening chores that stir up allergens.
  • Remove clothes you’ve worn outside and shower to rinse pollen from your skin and hair.
  • Don’t hang laundry outside — pollen can stick to sheets and towels.
  • Wear a face mask if you do outside chores.

Take extra steps when pollen counts are high

Seasonal allergy signs and symptoms can flare up when there’s a lot of pollen in the air. These steps can help you reduce your exposure:

  • Check your local TV or radio station, your local newspaper, or the internet for pollen forecasts and current pollen levels.
  • If high pollen counts are forecasted, start taking allergy medications before your symptoms start.
  • Close doors and windows at night if possible or any other time when pollen counts are high.
  • Avoid outdoor activity in the early morning when pollen counts are highest.

Keep indoor air clean

There’s no miracle product that can eliminate all allergens from the air in your home, but these suggestions may help:

  • Use air conditioning in your house and car.
  • If you have forced air heating or air conditioning in your house, use high-efficiency filters and follow regular maintenance schedules.
  • Keep indoor air dry with a dehumidifier.
  • Use a portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your bedroom.
  • Clean floors often with a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter.

Try an over-the-counter remedy

Several types of nonprescription medications can help ease allergy symptoms. They include:

  • Oral antihistamines. Antihistamines can help relieve sneezing, itching, a stuffy or runny nose, and watery eyes. Examples of oral antihistamines include cetirizine (Zyrtec Allergy), fexofenadine (Allegra Allergy) and loratadine (Claritin, Alavert).
  • Corticosteroid nasal sprays. These medications improve nasal symptoms. Examples include fluticasone propionate (Flonase Allergy Relief), budesonide (Rhinocort Allergy) and triamcinolone (Nasacort Allergy 24 Hour). Talk to your health care provider about long-term use of corticosteroid nasal sprays.
  • Cromolyn sodium nasal spray. This nasal spray can ease allergy symptoms by blocking the release of immune system agents that cause symptoms. It works best if treatment is started before exposure to allergens. It’s considered a very safe treatment, but it usually needs to be used 4 to 6 times daily.
  • Oral decongestants. Oral decongestants such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) can provide temporary relief from nasal stuffiness. Some allergy medications combine an antihistamine with a decongestant. Examples include cetirizine-pseudoephedrine (Zyrtec-D 12 Hour), fexofenadine-pseudoephedrine (Allegra-D 12 Hour Allergy and Congestion) and loratadine-pseudoephedrine (Claritin-D). Talk to your health care provider about whether the use of a decongestant is good for treating your allergy symptoms.

Rinse your sinuses

Rinsing your nasal passages with saline solution (nasal irrigation) is a quick, inexpensive and effective way to relieve nasal congestion. Rinsing directly flushes out mucus and allergens from your nose.

Saline solutions can be purchased ready-made or as kits to add to water. If you use a kit or home-made saline solution, use bottled water to reduce the risk of infection.

Homemade solutions should have 1 quart (1 liter) of water, 1.5 teaspoons (7.5 milliliters) of canning salt and 1 teaspoon (5 milliliters) of baking soda.

Rinse the irrigation device after each use with clean water and leave open to air-dry.

Alternative treatments

A number of natural remedies have been used to treat hay fever symptoms. Treatments that may improve symptoms include extracts of the shrub butterbur, spirulina (a type of dried algae) and other herbal remedies. Based on the limited number of well-designed clinical trials, there is not enough evidence to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of these remedies.

Results of studies of acupuncture have shown possible limited benefit, but the results of studies have been mixed.

Talk to your doctor before trying alternative treatments.

When home remedies aren’t enough

For many people, avoiding allergens and taking nonprescription medications is enough to ease symptoms. But if your seasonal allergies are still bothersome, don’t give up. A number of other treatments are available.

If you have bad seasonal allergies, your health care provider may recommend that you have skin tests or blood tests to find out exactly what allergens trigger your symptoms. Testing can help determine what steps you need to take to avoid your specific triggers and identify which treatments are likely to work best for you.

For some people, allergy shots (allergen immunotherapy) can be a good option. Also known as desensitization, this treatment involves regular injections containing tiny amounts of the substances that cause your allergies. Over time, these injections reduce the immune system reaction that causes symptoms. For some allergies, treatment can be given as tablets under the tongue.


YOGA FOR HEART HEALTH | UPMC Health Beat

Exercise that gets your heart rate pumping isn’t the only way to help improve your cardiovascular health. Managing stress also is critical to your overall heart health. Yoga’s clearest benefit to heart health is its ability to relax the body and mind. The practice of yoga also can increase strength, flexibility, and overall stamina, making it a great fit for a healthy lifestyle.

Here are 10 yoga poses for a healthy heart:

Poses to Increase Flexibility

Standing forward bend In this pose, you engage a deep stretch by bending forward from a standing position with your legs straight and feet together or hip-width apart. Bring your head toward your knees and place your palms or fingertips on the floor in line with your feet. If you can’t reach the floor, you can rest your palms or fingertips on a yoga block in front of your feet. This pose stretches the spine, hamstrings, shoulders, and groin. It can relieve pain and increase flexibility.

Extended triangle pose From a standing position, step your right foot 3-4 feet from your left foot. Turn your left foot about 45 degrees to the right. Place your right foot at 90 degrees. Shift your left hip back toward your left heel and lean your torso to the right. Reach your left hand down, either to the floor (or a block) outside of your right foot or against your right shin. As you turn and look up, raise your right arm to the sky, with fingers pointing upwards. Inhale and exhale for three counts, while keeping your legs straight and thighs firm. Repeat on the opposite side. This pose stretches and strengthens the chest, torso, and legs to promote increased stamina.

Bridge pose Lying on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor, place your feet about hip-width apart and bring your knees over your ankles. As you press your feet into the floor, lift your bottom off the floor and hold it in the air while lifting your hips toward the ceiling. You can rest your arms on the floor at your side, or you can roll your shoulders under your body and clasp your hands below your pelvis on the floor. This pose will help stretch the spine and chest and relieve stress. It also can be therapeutic for someone with high blood pressure.

Chair pose From a standing position with your feet together or slightly apart and toes facing forward, raise your arms overhead and bend your knees. With your thighs touching (or slightly apart), bring your thighs nearly parallel to the floor. Your knees will protrude forward, and your torso will slightly lean forward over the thighs. Hold this position for up to a minute before returning to the starting position and repeating. This pose engages the leg and arm muscles, while stimulating the diaphragm and heart.

Head to knee pose Sit on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Bend your right leg so the bottom of your right foot rests on the inner thigh of your left leg. Reach both arms toward your left foot, keeping your left leg straight on the ground, and come into a forward bend. Lower your forehead toward your straight leg as you breathe into the stretch. Repeat on the opposite side. This pose will help stretch the spine, shoulders, hamstrings, and groin. It may also help relieve anxiety and fatigue.

Poses for Relaxation and Sleep

Easy pose Begin in a seated, upright position with your feet crossed underneath the opposite thigh. Place your hands in your lap, with your palms facing up or on your knees, and breathe in this pose for several minutes. This pose can help relax the body and mind while strengthening the back. You can use your time as a mini-meditation.

Supine spinal twist Lie on your back and bring your right knee to your chest, then across your left side. Extend your right arm out to the side and take several deep breaths. Repeat on your left side. Another variation focuses on raising both knees across each side. This gentle twist helps to relieve tension in the spine and relax the body.

Child’s pose Begin by kneeling on the floor and sitting on your feet. Separate your knees as wide as your hips and bring your big toes together. Lay your torso forward between your thighs, extending your arms in front of you on the floor. Lay your forehead against the floor and rest in this position for a few minutes. This pose stretches the hips and thighs while relaxing the mind and reducing stress. It can also help relieve back pain.

Legs up the wall This pose is exactly as it sounds. Lie on your back on the floor and position both legs against the wall. Lie this way for several minutes. The blood flows to the heart, providing a soothing, relaxing experience. It is especially helpful for better sleep.

Corpse pose Lie on your back with your arms and legs relaxed. Reach your arms out to the sides with your palms facing up. Close your eyes and take a few minutes to focus your attention on your body and your breathing. This can help relieve stress.


Strength Training and Weight Loss: WHY CARDIO ISN’T ENOUGH | UPMC Health Beat

If you want to work out to lose weight, you might be considering spin classes or jogging on the treadmill. And while those cardio workouts are essential for burning calories and building endurance, it’s also important to include muscle-strengthening in your routine. Strength training and weight loss are closely linked.

What Is Strength Training? Many people associate strength-building with bulky muscles and bodybuilders. But strengthening exercises aren’t just for people who want to bulk up with dumbbells.

Strengthening exercise (sometimes called resistance training) includes a wide variety of exercises and activities. The goal is to work a set of muscles to fatigue through repetition — not to elevate your heart rate over an extended as in cardio workouts.

Strengthening exercise can involve:

  • Free weights
  • Weight machines at the gym
  • Resistance bands
  • Medicine balls
  • Lifting small items like cans or water bottles at home
  • Bodyweight exercises (e.g., pushups, sit-ups, squats, and planks)

Strength Training and Weight Loss When you maintain a muscle-strengthening routine, you’ll feel stronger and look more toned — and yes, lose weight. According to the American Heart Association, resistance workouts grow the strength of your bones, muscles, and connective tissues, like tendons and ligaments. That’s especially important as you age and your risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures rises. The American Diabetes Association says that regular strength-building exercise can also increase insulin sensitivity and thereby lower blood glucose.

And if you work out to lose weight, here’s more good news: Those muscles you’re building boost your metabolism, because muscle at rest burns more calories than fat. So as you get toned, you actually burn more calories throughout the day — even when you’re just sitting on the couch.

A Little Strength-Building Goes a Long Way For optimal results, you should do strengthening exercises at least two times a week, focusing on the major muscle groups. Take a day or rest in between—for example, if you work on legs one day, do arms the next. If you perform a full-body workout (including your arms, legs, and chest, etc.) take a whole day or rest in between.

Of course, check with your doctor before starting any fitness program.

It’s important — especially if you haven’t done strengthening exercises before — to start small. Warm up and cool down with lighter weights if you’re just starting out.

Use light weights with more repetitions at first, and then work up to heavier weights or stronger resistance bands. Muscle-strengthening activities should be gradually increased over time. Begin with one day a week performing a light to moderate effort. Then increase to two days per week, building the intensity over time.

For even better results, combine strengthening exercises with 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming, or biking, five days per week. If you also do yoga or Pilates a couple times per week to improve flexibility, you’ll have an optimal fitness regimen for weight loss or general health.

Muscle-Building Myths, Busted No, you will not look like a professional bodybuilder if you start lifting weights a couple of times each week. Especially for women, it’s impossible to achieve a bulky look without a highly specialized diet and an intense weightlifting routine.

Another myth is that you can’t slim down while strength-building. Remember that muscle weighs significantly more than fat, so it may appear that your weight loss has slowed when, in fact, you’re toning up and dropping sizes. It can be better to track your health by how clothes fit rather than with the scale.


BENEFITS OF LEMON JUICE AND WATER | UPMC Health Beat

There’s more to lemons than meets the eye. This fruit may pair well with some of your favorite dishes, but it also offers incredible health benefits. Lemons are packed with nutrients, promote weight loss, and have even been linked to kidney stone prevention and cancer treatment!

Nutrition Facts of Lemon Lemons include many vitamins and nutrients that can provide a boost to your body:

  • Vitamin C: Lemons are a good source of Vitamin C, which promotes immunity, battles infection, heals wounds, and more. One lemon provides about 31 mg of Vitamin C, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s FoodData Central. The recommended daily intake is 90 mg for men and 75 mg for women.
  • Calcium: Lemons contain calcium, which is important for muscle function, hormone secretion, vascular contraction, and more.
  • Potassium: Lemons have potassium, which helps muscles and nerves work properly.
  • Folate: Also found in lemons, folate fights against spinal birth defects and helps in red blood cell formation.

Benefits of Lemon Juice for Your Body

In addition to its properties as a beauty treatment and health aid, there are many other uses for lemons. Whether you enjoy the fruit alone or with your morning tea, here are just a few reasons to embrace lemons and their juice:

Relieves a sore throat.

Warm water mixed with honey and lemon is a popular home remedy for people with sore throats. The mixture can provide soothing benefits for a sore throat during cold season. The Vitamin C in lemons also can help in the effort.

May prevent and help fight cancer.

Studies have shown lemons may have anti-cancer benefits. The chemical makeup of lemons can help prevent the development of oral tumors, according to one study. Others have linked citrus fruits and their juices to antitumor effects.

Even chemicals in citrus fruits’ peels have been linked as potential anticancer agents.

Prevents kidney stones.

Lemon juice is shown to help prevent kidney stones by raising the urine’s citrate levels. Citrate binds to calcium, which helps keep kidney stones from forming.

Aids in digestion.

The peel and pulp of lemons contain an soluble fiber called pectin. It promotes the production of digestive enzymes in the liver, helping eliminate waste from your body.

Fiber-rich fruits can also help promote regularity, lessening your risk of constipation.

Helps regulate blood sugar.

Eating fruit high in fiber can help keep your blood glucose in line, helping to prevent increases. This can lower the risk of diabetes, or it can help people with diabetes manage their condition.

Promotes weight loss.

The pectin in lemons and their juice helps you feel fuller for longer, which will make your weight loss much more manageable.

Studies show that an increase in fiber intake, especially from low-density sources like fruit, can lead to lower body weight and fat.

Helps clear skin.

Lemons have natural antibacterial qualities and alpha hydroxyl acids, like many over-the-counter acne medications. They can brighten, exfoliate, and help remove blackheads. Lemon has also been known to possibly help halt bad breath and get rid of dandruff when applied to the scalp.

The Vitamin C in lemons also promotes collagen synthesis, another boost to your skin.

How to Add Lemon Water to Your Day

Lemon water in the morning.

If you like to add lemon juice to your water to improve the taste or another reason, there is no right or wrong method. Diluting lemon juice in water can start the day right. Just a cup or two of warm water and lemon juice can improve digestion and reduce heartburn, while stimulating the production of stomach bile and acid. Lemon juice and water also serves as a good substitute to coffee as it can give you the same energy boost without the jitters or midday crash.

Lemon water in the evening.

Combining warm water with lemon before bed, especially after a heavy or spicy meal, can help with digestion and help you sleep.

However, you should try to avoid drinking too much water before bed because it might make you get up during the night to go to the bathroom. This can hurt your ability to get a full night’s sleep.

When you drink lemon water, use a straw or brush your teeth right after because lemons can weaken your teeth enamel.

“The quantity of lemon water recommended varies by person,” says Tessa Wellmon, RD, a registered dietician at UPMC Hamot. “Somebody without ill effects could consume several glasses a day. But if you have been told it is affecting the enamel of your teeth or you notice it causing heartburn, it would be in your best interest to use it sparingly and make sure you are diluting it with a larger volume of water.”

Possible Disadvantages of Lemon

It is possible to have too much lemon. The American Dental Association says too much citrus can weaken your enamel, increasing your risk of tooth decay. It also can irritate mouth sores.

Citrus also can cause problems for people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Another potential risk is bacteria. A National Environmental Health Association study tested lemons placed on the rims of beverage glasses at restaurants. It found that nearly 70 percent of the lemons tested contained bacteria.

Those risks shouldn’t necessarily stop you from drinking lemon water, Wellmon says.

“There isn’t necessarily a limit to how much lemon water you drink in a day,” she says, “as long as it isn’t causing ill effects, such as weakening the enamel on your teeth or causing heartburn.”


9 BENEFITS OF STRETCHING | Healthline

1. Increases your flexibility Regular stretching can help increase your flexibility, which is crucial for your overall health. Not only can improved flexibility help you to perform everyday activities with relative ease, but it can also help delay the reduced mobility that can come with aging.

2. Increases your range of motion Being able to move a joint through its full range of motion gives you more freedom of movement. Stretching on a regular basis can help increase your range of motion. One study found that both static and dynamic stretching are effective when it comes to increasing range of motion, although proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF)-type stretching, where you stretch a muscle to its limit, may be more effective for immediate gains.

3. Improves your performance in physical activities Performing dynamic stretches prior to physical activities has been shown to help prepare your muscles for the activity. It may also help improve your performance in an athletic event or exercise.

4. Increases blood flow to your muscles Performing stretches on a regular basis may improve your circulation. Improved circulation increases blood flow to your muscles, which can shorten your recovery time and reduce muscle soreness (also known as delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS).

5. Improves your posture Muscle imbalances are common and can lead to poor posture. One study found that a combination of strengthening and stretching specific muscle groups can reduce musculoskeletal pain and encourage proper alignment. That, in turn, may help improve your posture.

6. Helps to heal and prevent back pain Tight muscles can lead to a decrease in your range of motion. When this happens, you increase the likelihood of straining the muscles in your back. Stretching can help heal an existing back injury by stretching the muscles. A regular stretching routine can also help prevent future back pain by strengthening your back muscles and reducing your risk for muscle strain.

7. Is great for stress relief When you’re experiencing stress, there’s a good chance your muscles are tense. That’s because your muscles tend to tighten up in response to physical and emotional stress. Focus on areas of your body where you tend to hold your stress, such as your neck, shoulders, and upper back.

8. Can calm your mind Participating in a regular stretching program not only helps increase your flexibility, but it can also calm your mind. While you stretch, focus on mindfulness and meditation exercises, which give your mind a mental break.

9. Helps decrease tension headaches Tension and stress headaches can interfere with your daily life. In addition to a proper diet, adequate hydration, and plenty of rest, stretching may help reduce the tension you feel from headaches.

The most common forms of stretches are static and dynamic:

  • Static stretches involve holding a stretch in a comfortable position for a period of time, typically between 10 and 30 seconds. This form of stretching is most beneficial after you exercise.
  • Dynamic stretches are active movements that cause your muscles to stretch, but the stretch is not held in the end position. These stretches are usually done before exercise to get your muscles ready for movement.

Tips

  • Use dynamic stretches before exercise to prepare your muscles.
  • Use static stretches after exercise to reduce your risk for injury.

How to start a stretching routine

If you’re new to a regular stretching routine, take it slow. Just like other forms of physical activity, your body needs time to get used to the stretches you’re performing.

You also need a solid grasp of proper form and technique. Otherwise, you risk getting injured.

You can stretch any time during the day. On days you exercise:

  • aim for 5 to 10 minutes of dynamic stretching prior to your activity
  • do another 5 to 10 minutes of static or PNF stretching after your workout

On days when you aren’t exercising, still plan to schedule at least 5 to 10 minutes of time for stretching. This can help improve flexibility and reduce muscle tightness and pain.

When stretching, focus on the major areas of your body that help with mobility, such as your calves, hamstrings, hip flexors, and quadriceps. For upper-body relief, try moves that stretch the shoulders, neck, and lower back.

Hold each stretch for 30 seconds and avoid bouncing.

You can stretch after each workout or athletic event, or daily after your muscles are warmed up.

Risks and safety tips

Stretching may not always be safe:

  • If you have an acute or existing injury, only perform stretches recommended by your doctor.
  • If you have a chronic or nagging injury, consider talking with a sports medicine specialist or physical therapist to design a stretching protocol that fits your needs.
  • If you have any physical limitations that prevent you from properly performing a stretching exercise, consult your doctor for alternative exercises that can help increase your flexibility.

Regardless of your fitness level, there are a few standard safety tips for stretching that you should follow:

  • Don’t bounce. Years ago, ballistic stretching was thought to be the best way to increase flexibility. Now, experts suggest you avoid bouncing unless these types of stretches have been recommended to you by a doctor or physical therapist.
  • Don’t stretch beyond the point of comfort. While it’s normal to feel some tension when stretching a muscle, you should never feel pain. If the area you are stretching starts to hurt, back off the stretch until you don’t feel any discomfort.
  • Don’t overdo it. Like other forms of exercise, stretching puts stress on your body. If you’re stretching the same muscle groups multiple times a day, you risk over-stretching and causing damage.
  • Don’t go into your stretches cold. Cold muscles are not as pliable, which makes stretching a lot more difficult. The best time to stretch is after you work out, but if you’re not exercising before performing your stretches, consider warming up for 5 to 10 minutes with some light cardio, such as walking or jogging.

The takeaway

Whether you’re new to exercise or a seasoned athlete, you can benefit from a regular stretching routine. By incorporating 5 to 10 minutes of dynamic and static stretches into your daily workout, you can increase your range of motion, improve your posture, and ease your mind.


THE SILVERSNEAKERS GUIDE TO CARDIO EXERCISE FOR OLDER ADULTS | Elizabeth Millard

Cardio workouts can help you build strength while lowering your risk of heart disease and other health conditions. Here’s how to reap its many benefits.If you’ve ever gone for a jog, swam laps in a pool, or taken a brisk walk, you’ve done cardiovascular exercise. Usually shortened to “cardio,” this type of exercise gets your heart rate and breathing rate up.

When it comes to putting together a fitness mix for healthy aging, cardio should be a major component, according to the National Institute on Aging. And for many cardio exercises, all you need is yourself — and a good pair of supportive sneakers.

Here’s everything you need to know about cardio exercise, including how to get started and the kind of health benefits you can expect.

Remember to get your healthcare provider’s OK before beginning any new exercise program. If you have a chronic condition, balance issues, or are recovering from an injury or surgery, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.

What are the health benefits of cardio exercise? Cardio exercise is best known for its heart-health benefits, but cardio workouts can help older adults improve their overall health in a number of ways.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the health benefits of regular cardio exercise include:

  • Lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, dementia and Alzheimer’s, and several types of cancer
  • Better sleep, including improvements in insomnia and sleep apnea
  • Improved cognitive function, including memory, attention, and processing speed
  • Weight loss
  • Better bone health and balance, with less risk of injury from falls
  • Fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Better quality of life and improved sense of overall well-being

Plus, if you exercise with a friend or family member, you’ll get an added mental boost from the social interaction.

How much cardio exercise should you do weekly? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans call for 150- to 300-minutes a week of moderate-intensity cardio or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity cardio.

You could also do a combination of the two. But know that it’s better to space out your cardio workouts, rather than trying to load up on one day per week.

If an on-going health condition prevents you from doing 150-minutes, try to be as physically active as possible. Also, talk to your doctor about ways you can stay active and exercise safely.

If you’re new to cardio exercise — or exercise in general — 150 minutes might sound like a lot. Don’t stress. Try to view this effort as a lifelong endeavor.

Begin slowly and gradually increase the intensity over time. That helps prevent injury, as your heart and lungs have time to adjust to increasing amounts of cardio.

How can you determine intensity level? To figure out if you’re getting the most out of each workout, it helps to understand intensity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) uses a 10-point scale to demonstrate cardio intensity. Zero is sitting and 10 is working as hard as you can.

Moderate-intensity activity falls at a 5 or 6 on that scale. It will make your heart beat faster and make you breathe harder, but you can still hold a conversation. Slower than that would be a low-intensity activity, where you’d have enough breath to be able to sing.

Vigorous-intensity activity is a 7 or 8: Your heart rate and breath rate increase even more. One minute of vigorous-intensity activity is about the same as two minutes of moderate-intensity activity, according to the CDC. Anything above an 8 is not recommended.

Remember: Everyone’s fitness level is different. What feels like vigorous activity to you might be moderate to someone else. What’s important is to do activities that feel right to you, in a way that’s challenging but not pushing yourself too far.

What should your heart rate be when doing a cardio workout? In addition to striving for a moderate- to vigorous-intensity, it’s helpful to know your target heart rate. That’s a training measurement that helps you gauge your effort.

Most adults have a resting heart rate of 60 to 100 beats per minute, according to the AHA. Your target heart rate is the “zone” you want to strive for during each cardio workout in order to reap those health benefits discussed earlier.

During moderate-intensity exercise, the target heart rate zone is 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. During vigorous-intensity exercise, the target heart rate is 70 to 85 percent maximum, according to the AHA.

In general, someone who is 65 years old has a target heart rate of 78 to 132 beats per minute, while someone who is 70 or older should stay within 75 to 128 beats per minute. That said, it’s a good idea to ask your doctor what your heart rate should be during exercise. Many medications affect heart rate, so your target zone may be different.

A heart rate monitor or wearable activity tracker can help you keep track of your cardio progress during workouts. That way, it’s easy to see when you’re hitting your target heart rate.

If you don’t have a heart rate monitor, you can periodically check your heart rate as you exercise. Here’s how:

  • Take your pulse on the inside of your wrist, on the thumb side
  • Use the tips of your first two fingers to gently press on the artery
  • Count the beats for 30 seconds and multiply by two to find the beats per minute

If your heart rate is too low or too high during a workout, use that information to adjust your intensity accordingly.

Should you skip cardio if you have heart disease or other heart issues? When you have a heart condition, it may be tempting to take it easy to avoid putting too much stress on your heart. However, sedentary behavior is much tougher on your heart than cardio, research suggests. A 2019 study in the journal Circulation notes that physical inactivity is among the leading modifiable risk factors worldwide for cardiovascular disease.

Cardio exercise, on the other hand, can boost your heart health. According to the National Library of Medicine, this form of exercise can strengthen your heart muscle and help manage your blood pressure. This makes cardio an ideal workout for people with heart disease and other heart issues.

If you’re looking to get into cardio and you have a heart condition, keep these tips in mind:

  • Start slowly with an activity like walking, swimming, or a SilverSneakers class, and do this at least three or four times a week
  • Always do at least five minutes of stretching or walking to warm up your heart and muscles before exercise
  • Cool down after your workout by doing the same activity at a slower pace
  • Take frequent rest periods so you don’t get too tired
  • Stop if you feel tired or have any heart symptoms like discomfort in the chest, dizziness or lightheadedness, pain, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, or nausea

In addition, during hot weather you should take a few extra precautions. Try to exercise indoors in an air-conditioned room, or outdoors in the morning or evening. That’s because heat and humidity can cause your heart to work harder, so it may be working too hard if you’re exercising in the middle of the day.

Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before starting a new cardio regimen. This is especially true if you have a condition like heart disease or congestive heart failure and want to do exercises that change your heart rate. It’s possible your doctor may suggest doing supervised cardiac rehab, so a physical therapist can monitor you in a safe setting.

Can you do cardio if you have joint pain or mobility limitations? There are plenty of cardio workouts that are high-impact, especially ones that include running and jumping.

Luckily, there are just as many options that offer cardio benefits without stressing your joints. For example, swimming laps or taking a water aerobics class like SilverSneakers Splash is no-impact while still providing an ideal amount of resistance.

You can also opt to slow down your cardio workouts, as well as get your heart rate up with low-impact activities like bicycling, rowing, elliptical training, and brisk walking.

Just as you would if you have heart issues, talk to your doctor to get the green light before starting a new exercise program. And be sure to take it slow when you first begin. Remember that even a couple minutes of exercise at a time adds up to a larger fitness goal.

What’s a good way to get started with cardio exercise? If you don’t know where to begin, a brisk walk is a great option. The more you pick up the pace, the better your workout will be. One of the best aspects of cardio is that you can tailor it to fit your individual needs and lifestyle.

Is cardio the same as aerobic exercise? While they’re related, cardio and aerobic exercise are not exactly the same — although it’s likely you’ll be doing them simultaneously.

While cardio focuses on increasing your heart rate, aerobic exercise focuses on oxygen use and breathing. Cardio is about getting your heart pumping faster and aerobic exercise is about getting your lungs to work harder.

It’s no surprise the two are often used as synonyms. During cardio, your respiratory system works harder. This prompts your blood vessels to expand, bringing more oxygen to your body. And as your heart beats faster, your breathing gets heavier.

In fact, one of the measures of cardio exertion is called the “talk test.” The harder you’re working out, the more challenging it becomes to hold a conversation. At the beginning of a treadmill or stationary bike workout, for example, you might be able to carry a conversation like normal with someone next to you. But after a few minutes, you’ll likely only be able to get out a few breathy words at a time.

All of this means that as you’re doing cardio, you’ll also be getting aerobic advantages, including improved lung function.

What counts as cardio exercise? Because cardio is any activity that gets your heart beating faster, it can encompass a wide range of activities — everything from pushing a lawn mower to a dressed-up night on the dance floor.

Common cardio workouts include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Swimming
  • Biking
  • Pickleball or tennis
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Kayaking or canoeing
  • High-intensity interval training (aka HIIT)
  • Martial arts
  • Running

The most important thing is that you choose activities you enjoy doing. You’re more likely to stick to your routine if you’re having fun.

And remember that everyone starts somewhere. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re out of breath 15 minutes into your 30-minute workout. The more you do cardio, the easier it will feel.

In time, you’ll boost your heart health, feel more energized, and have plenty of fun along the way.

Good to know: Many SilverSneakers fitness classes are a fun way to get your cardio workouts in. View the JCC’s schedule of SilverSneakers classes HERE


IT’S ABOUT TIME: 10-MINUTE WORKOUTS | Cathy Spencer Browning, MOSSA

I can’t make time to exercise. I don’t have time to exercise. I don’t understand where people find time to exercise.

We hear it all the time. (And, yes, we’ve even said it.) Yet, down we go, making time to dive into the rabbit hole of cute puppy videos, or finding time to check comments on our latest social post, or having time to hit the snooze button. How easily 10 minutes can get swallowed up by, excuse the intensity of this word, pointlessness!

On the other hand, what if we resisted the puppy videos (I know, it’s hard), didn’t give into our social feed, and vetoed the snooze button? We would miraculously regain all these small windows that could be put to great use! We could make time, have time, and find time to MOVE, for just a bite-sized portion of our day.

See, at MOSSA, we believe everyone can get moving, regardless of schedule, location, or experience. That’s why we’ve created 10-minute workouts for, among many things, maneuverability, digestibility, and versatility. In fact, I can think of 10 compelling reasons why 10-minute movement snacks can be the perfect add-on to your active (or getting active) lifestyle.

10 Reasons 10-Minute Workouts Work

1. You’re Creating an Exercise Habit
​​​​​​Turning a new behavior into a habit can be challenging…often made worse by the loftiness of the approach. Rather than making small changes that gradually gain momentum (walking before we run), many of us use the go big or go home mentality, as in, “I am going to start exercising so I am going to get up every morning at 5 a.m. and run 5 miles.” That zero-to-60 approach costs a lot of motivation muscle, which is likely to wane, especially for non-runners and non-morning people!

But if we create small, manageable commitments, like: “I am going to slowly and steadily build an exercise habit by scheduling a 10-minute workout three times this week,” we’re much more likely to feel successful and we have a much greater chance of hardwiring a new habit, so that it eventually doesn’t use much motivation muscle at all!

2. You’re Trying a New Program
Are you program curious? Have you ever said, “Oh, I like the look of that, but I am _________.” (Fill in the blank: not coordinated enough, not flexible enough, not strong enough…) MOSSA’s 10-minute workouts are a perfect way to practice the core competencies for each program. Choose a 10-minute workout and keep doing it until you can do it all, then move on to a different one for that same program. Before you know it, you will have the lingo down and you will be moving like a pro!

3. You’re Short on Time
At MOSSA we are huge believers that there is no such thing as a bad workout. The only bad one is the one that never happened! We know there are times when we are time starved and trying to squeeze in 30 or 60 minutes can seem impossible. But we also know that moving, even for short periods, has so many inherent benefits. It’s why we push to do something rather than nothing. We know you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish in just 10 minutes, and you’ll be surprised by your options: strength training, cardio, mind-body, dance, and more, all capable of delivering physical and psychological benefits.

4. You Need a Little More…or a Little Less
Maybe 30 minutes isn’t the magic number. Nor is 60 minutes. But 10 is great and 20 is awesome. What about 40 or 50 minutes? The 10-minute workouts give you versatility to create your own perfect length workout!

5. You Want Less Physical or Mental Overwhelm
When we start a new exercise type it stresses the body (this stress is positive, BTW), resulting in muscle soreness because of “unaccustomed” activity. Sometimes this muscle soreness can be uncomfortable and a little intimidating. By reducing the volume of work, our muscle soreness will be reduced, resulting in less physical overwhelm. In similar ways, learning new activities can use up a lot of mental bandwidth, especially when concentrating for long periods of time. Reducing the length of time will mean that we don’t use up our whole quota of mental reserves for the day.

6. You Want Improved Focus, Productivity, and Energy
It has been well reported in scientific literature that a single bout of exercise (yes, 10 minutes counts) can improve concentration and focus for up to two hours afterwards. So, when you are feeling that mid-afternoon slump, rather than reaching for a coffee, what if you moved your body for 10 minutes?

7. You Have Niggles (That’s Australian for Aches and Pains)
Our whole body is wrapped in a type of Saran Wrap called fascia. Fascia is a tough connective tissue that envelops every muscle, nerve, and organ in the body and it both separates and binds our whole structure. It is comprised of about 70% water. Healthy fascia is hydrated and glides and slides on itself. Fascia can get dehydrated by not drinking enough water, but it can also get dehydrated because of sedentary postures, like sitting. Picture a seated posture. Now picture the water getting squished out of your backside muscles, or the fascia sticking to itself across the hip joint and behind the knee. Now this is a massive oversimplification, but, when we go to stand up, we feel stiff and sticky, and many of us have niggles, or “common” aches, and pains. Practically speaking, we can’t completely eliminate seated postures, but we can infuse motion – like a 10-minute workout – to promote healthy hydrated fascia and to combat niggles.

8. You Want to Improve Your Health
It’s a known fact that exercise, independent of anything to do with body weight, makes you healthier. Indeed, it’s the only thing that will improve your biomarkers of health. Too often exercise focuses on weight loss, and too often, when weight loss isn’t immediately evident, people quit. So, we have to make movement about our overall health – mental and physical – and about increasing our active lifespan. Because the “best” kind of exercise isn’t what moves a scale; it’s about what will keep us moving for our entire life. My point: 10-minute workouts are a perfect preview and practice to find out what you like and don’t like, and what will start you down a path of enjoying movement for your health’s sake.

9. You Deserve Emotional Well-being
Exercise releases feel-good happy hormones, boosting emotional wellbeing by reducing stress and anxiety and promoting a positive sense of self. It’s why we often joke, “I regret that workout…,” said no one ever! Sometimes it costs us a little motivation to get going, but once it is done, we experience an immediate boost in mood and disposition. So, whenever you are procrastinating, just imagine how good you will feel when it is done! Repeat after me: “I am only 10 minutes away from a better mood.”

10. You Need Movement Confidence and Competence
We should all desire to inhabit a body that moves with ease and less restriction, that can do all that we want it to do. A body that is confident and competent. Unfortunately, it has become widely accepted that the way we age in western culture is normal. That the movement dysfunctions many experiences are a normal by-product of ageing. This is far from the truth.

When it comes to movement, when we decide to not do certain things anymore (“Oh, I don’t do push-ups,” and “No, I don’t lunge with these knees,”), well, we lose our ability to do those things. This reduces movement competence and confidence, which is a fast-track to losing independence.

The opposite is also true. Expose yourself to as many movements as possible. Have a “can-do” attitude or “I can’t do it now, but I will soon” attitude and you will get back your movement mojo. And not only that, but you will also build a better brain because exposure to new moves, new programs, and new physical challenges, builds new neurons! And, yes, even 10 minutes of novel movement patterns build a better brain.

What Didn’t Make the Top 10 List

I hope you noticed something when reading this. I didn’t talk about changing the shape of a muscle. I didn’t talk about weight loss. I didn’t use the word “tone” or “shape” or “ripped” or “cut” or “shredded.” I used confident, competent, wellbeing, happiness, less niggles, more focus, less stress, less anxiety, improved health, and a better brain.

Exercise intention – why you want to get and stay moving – is important for exercise adherence. In other words, having greater psychological needs can be a great driver of self-motivation! So, I have a challenge for you. I want you to find “10 for your 10,” meaning 10 personally motivating reasons why it is worth taking 10 minutes of your day to move. Here are mine!

My Why for 10 Minutes of Movement Each Day
1.    I want to live a long, active life with my husband.
2.    I want to live a long active life for my two daughters.
3.    I want to have the emotional fortitude to handle the stresses of work and life!
4.    I want to feel good in my body.
5.    I want to feel creative and sharp.
6.    I want to be a role model for my girls and other people in my close circle.
7.    I want to grow younger by reducing my biological age.
8.    I want to experience high productivity.
9.    I want to be healthy.
10.  I want to enjoy an active lifestyle.

Keep working on your 10 – it’s okay if your list is a work in progress and evolves over time – and I’ll wrap by saying thanks for taking 10 minutes to read about 10-minute workouts, a slightly more productive use of your time than, say, puppy videos and news feeds. Now, will you give yourself another 10 and get moving?

To learn more about MOSSA’s full library of 10-Minute Workouts, visit www.mossaondemand.net.


WHAT IS HIIT AND ITS BENEFITS? | Active Health

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.


10 HEALTHY SNACKS FOR WEIGHT LOSS | SilverSneakers

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

31 DAYS TO UNBREAKABLE RESOLUTIONS | Patti Sciulli

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!”


WHAT IS ACTIVE RECOVERY—AND WHY IS IT SO GOOD FOR YOU? | Karen Ansel, MS, RDN


NEW YEAR, NEW YOU: FORMING NEW HABITS | Brittany Reese

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.

HOLIDAY SURVIVAL GUIDE | JCCPGH 

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!


SO GOOD YOU WON’T BELIEVE THEY’RE BOOZE-FREE | Leslie Barrie, Everyday Health

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


TRUTH FROM FICTION: COMMON MYTHS ABOUT WEIGHT LOSS | Medically Reviewed by UPMC Bariatric Services

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

5 BEST WAYS TO GET IN YOUR EXERCISE WHILE YOU TRAVEL FOR THE HOLIDAYS | healthline.com

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.


GET READY FOR THE HOLIDAY EATING SEASON | JCC of Greater Pittsburgh

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

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