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Brain Fitness: Can physical exercise really improve your memory?

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Short answer … Yes.  An article on my CNN phone app caught my attention yesterday. Titled, “It’s time to get your brain in shape”, it included a list of things you can do daily to keep your brain sharp. You won’t be surprised that one of them was physical exercise. Still, it’s easier to associate improved brain function with mental exercise and a healthy diet. How does physical exercise make a difference, even in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease? The CNN article states that, “exercise enhances the growth and survival of new neurons in the hippocampus – a region of the brain essential for long-term memory – which may be able to replace others that degenerate as a result of the disease.” So read that again … exercise can replace memory neurons that degenerate. So it’s not just preventative, it’s restorative!

For you science geeks interested in more detail, another article from Harvard Health Publications, Get your heart pumping in the fight against forgetfulness, claims that exercise “stimulates brain regions that are involved in memory function to release a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF rewires memory circuits so they work better. … BDNF isn’t available in a pill. Only the brain can make it, and only with regular exercise. That means 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, ideally five days a week. The threshold for brain benefit seems to be raising your heart rate to 70% of maximum. For men, the maximum heart rate is roughly 220 minus age.”

I love finding evidence on the health benefits of regular exercise beyond weight loss. Our culture puts a high value on cognitive strength as well as physical strength. Isn’t it cool to know you can improve both with the same investment of effort?

What surprising health benefits have you seen from your exercise regimen?

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Trends in corporate employee wellness programs

Check this out. According to the article, Trend: Employee Wellness published by Great Place to Work, 55 of the top 100 best workplaces in 2013 offered financial incentives for employees to participate in wellness programs. And the incentives ranged from an average of $460 to a best of $2600 so it’s not just a token. The article also credits companies for having onsite gyms or subsidies for offsite fitness centers. Gym benefits have been around a bit longer though but the point here is the trend.

The trend involves two good things:

  • More companies are actively supporting health & fitness
  • Companies are getting more creative and flexible with their programs

I really love the idea of an incentive for participating in a wellness program on your own. Gyms aren’t for everyone but if they’re your thing, you will probably use one with or without a subsidy. An incentive for a wellness program could (and should) be for whatever it is that works for each individual. It might be food counseling or a step tracker or personal exercise therapy.

With all of the changes and unknowns related to how health care is and will be paid for it makes intense sense for employers who have a stake in it on many levels to invest on the prevention side of health care. Do you agree?

If you got a financial incentive for a wellness program, what would you use it for?

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Meet Fitipzz!

ImageWelcome Fitipzz!  This exercise bee is here to take some of the ‘sting’ out of exercise issues, common complaints and struggles by addressing some of the everyday and real issues my clients and I deal with on a daily basis.  As an exercise professional, we honestly want our clients and patients to see progress and feel better.  So believe it or not, we can have just as many frustrations with lack of progress as our clients do and can sometimes get even more excited about the progress!

ImageFitipzz comment of the day – I can’t exercise at home….  yes, actually you can! Lets find what the actual issue is that is preventing you from feeling like you can exercise at home.  Lack of privacy?  Lack of space?  Lack of ideas of what to do?   Instead, find the underlying cause and attack that.  Any great solutions or stories about working out at home when the situations are not ideal?  How do you solve that problem?

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Exercise? I would, but I…..

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I am too tired! – Exercise increases your body’s feel-good hormones (endorphins) and actually will give you more energy.  Some prefer to work out in the morning before your day gets away from you and helps you get through what you have to do.  If you are not a morning person, just do it whenever you feel at your best!

I don’t have the time! – Exercise when you are watching your favorite TV shows.  If they are not recorded, do your exercise during commercials.  If you cant find one consecutive hour, do a few shorter sessions.  Getting something in is always better then nothing!

I cant get time away from the kids! –  Take them with you!  Go for a bike ride, play a game of soccer, go for a walk, do races in the park.  Weather not cooperating?  Have a dance contest, try WIIfit.  When mom and dad are fit and have more energy, the whole family benefits!

I just don’t like to exercise –  First, figure out why.  Then tackle that problem.  Is it that you don’t like getting sweaty? You can work out indoors where it’s air conditioned. You can swim so you won’t notice any perspiration. Or try a low-sweat activity.

Is it hard on your joints? Head for the pool. Exercising in water is easier on your joints. The stronger your muscles get, the more they can support your joints and the less you’ll hurt. If your physical limitations are more serious, check with your doctor or exercise professional, to help you figure out exercises that are still safe and easy to do.

If you’re self-conscious about your weight, you could start by walking with friends, working out in the privacy of your home, or exercising with a trainer who’s supportive. Wear clothes that feel comfortable.  

I have tried before, it just does not work for me – Start with setting goals that are small and realistic. Then you’re more likely to feel like a success. It also helps to keep a log and post it somewhere public — even on Facebook. This can create a support system and help you through the tuff days.  A log also helps you see if you’re starting to fall off the wagon (or the treadmill).  Try getting an exercise buddy, this will also help to keep you accountable.

 

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Exercises to help you breathe

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With COPD, the less you do, the less you’re able to do. Weak muscles need more oxygen, so you can become short of breath with simple daily tasks. Exercise can change that. The more you do to condition your muscles, the easier daily activities become. The easier they are, the more independent you can stay.

Make sure to breathe slowly during your exercises. Inhale through your nose with your mouth closed to warm and filter the air. Exhale through your mouth for twice as long as your inhale.  If you feel your breath getting fast or shallow, stop, rest and relax your body.

Walk – Just about everyone with COPD can exercise. Walking is a great choice, especially if you’re just getting started. Do it anywhere — outside, in a mall, on a treadmill. If it seems daunting, add 30 seconds or 10 yards each day. Even a slow pace will do you good. If you haven’t been active lately, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.

Bike–  A stationary bike can work well for people with COPD. You can pedal away in the privacy of your home, In a gym or rehab setting, where you can find supervision and meet people. Ask the instructor before jumping into a group cycling class, to be sure it matches your ability. As you improve, try a spin outside on a traditional bike and soak up the scenery.

Light resistance training–  Lifting light weights can help you reach a high shelf or lug a gallon of milk, or climb the stairs with more ease.  Choose hand weights, stretchy bands, or water bottles and get recommended exercises from a professional.

Exercise Your Diaphragm–  This move strengthens a key breathing muscle, the diaphragm. Lie down with your knees bent or sit in an easy chair. place one hand on your chest, one below your rib cage. Slowly inhale through your nose so that your stomach raises one hand. Exhale with pursed lips and tighten your stomach. The hand on your chest should not move. Do this for 5 to 10 minutes, three or four times a day. Breathing this way will become easy and automatic.

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/copd/

WebMD.com
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First in Training, NC


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Juicing!

Juicing is the new craze, so what are some of the pros and cons?

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Juicing probably is not any healthier than eating whole fruits and vegetables. Juicing extracts the juice from fresh fruits or vegetables. The resulting liquid contains most of the vitamins, minerals and plant chemicals (phytonutrients) found in the whole fruit. However, whole fruits and vegetables also have healthy fiber, which is lost during most juicing.

Some juicing proponents say that juicing is better for you than is eating whole fruits and vegetables because your body can absorb the nutrients better and it gives your digestive system a rest from working on fiber. They say that juicing can reduce your risk of cancer, boost your immune system, help you remove toxins from your body, aid digestion and help you lose weight.

However, there’s no sound scientific evidence that extracted juices are healthier than the juice you get by eating the fruit or vegetable itself.

On the other hand, if you don’t enjoy eating fresh fruits and vegetables, juicing may be a fun way to add them to your diet or to try fruits and vegetables you normally wouldn’t eat. You can find many juicing recipes online or mix up your own combinations of fruits and vegetables to suit your taste.

If you do try juicing, make only as much juice as you can drink at one time because fresh squeezed juice can quickly develop harmful bacteria. And when juicing, try to keep some of the pulp. Not only does it have healthy fiber, but it can help fill you up.

Also keep in mind that juices may contain more sugar than you realize, and if you aren’t careful, these extra calories can lead to weight gain.

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FAT facts

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What is the purpose of body fat?  To release hormones that control metabolism. Fat is known to have two main purposes: 1) Fat stores excess calories in a safe way so you can mobilize the fat stores when you’re hungry, and 2) Fat releases hormones that control metabolism.

Excess body fat increases female hormones in men. True or False?  False! The truth is that overweight women have higher levels of male hormones, which increases their risk of heart disease. Those hormones also cause male pattern balding, some excess facial hair, and acne.  More truth? Overweight people often suffer from sleep disorders such as sleep apnea which is dangerous. Sleep apnea causes breathing to stop many times during the night. This makes oxygen levels drop, which affects the heart and increases risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes. But relax; a certain amount of body fat is necessary for storing energy, heat insulation, shock absorption, and other functions.

Fat maintains healthy skin and hair. True or False?  True!  Believe it or not, healthy skin and hair are maintained by fat. Fat helps the body absorb and move the vitamins A, D, E, and K through the bloodstream.

How many calories are in a gram of fat?  9 calories. The number of calories you need each day varies depending on your body size and activity levels. Someone who needs about 2,000 calories a day should be eating no more than 65 grams of fat a day on average. To determine your ideal daily dietary fat intake: 1. Take the number of calories you eat each day and multiply it by 30 percent (.30). For example: 2,000 calories x .30 = 600 calories from fat. 2. Divide your answer by 9 because there are 9 calories in each gram of fat. This will give you the number of grams of fat per day that should be your upper limit goal. Here, it’s: 600 / 9 = 65 grams. A person who consumes 2,000 calories per day should ideally consume not more than 65 grams of fat. Some researchers suggest that even 65 grams of fat in a 2,000 calorie diet is still too much fat.
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First in Training, NC