Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A New Year...A New You

With 2012 fast approaching, many people will begin to think about their resolutions for the new year.  Are you one of those people?  What are you resolving to do or change in 2012?  It's time for you to start thinking about yourself and your health.  We have many informative blogs on heart health, exercising, nutrition, and stress management.  Refer back to these blogs and think about how you can start making better, healthier choices in life.

This time when you set your resolutions or goals for 2012, focus on the positive health behaviors rather than the negative ones.  What does that mean?  Instead of telling yourself you are going to "cut out" some type of unhealthy food or drink (i.e., french fries, soda, caffeine, etc.) why not "add" a healthy behavior such as increasing your water intake or adding vegetables to every meal.  Research has shown it is easier to increase healthier behaviors more than decreasing or eliminating unhealthy ones.  Once you begin to adopt these healthy behaviors, there will be a naturally tendency to cut back or eliminate behaviors such as eating unhealthy foods and consuming large amounts of sugar and caffeine.  

Thinking about joining a gym or health club in 2012?  Be sure this is something you are committed to and you are not joining just because there's a good deal advertised.  If you are ready to make changes with your exercise habits and you don't have the resources at home to begin a program, maybe it would be good for you to join.  Fitness professionals with degrees and certifications can help you in your journey.  Do you have a little extra money to spend on yourself this year?  Instead of buying another electronic gadget or another purse/jacket, why not invest in a trainer?  One-on-one attention with a trainer can help you stay focused and reach your goals.

One important resolution or goal everyone should establish this year is to take time for yourself.  Many of us are so busy taking care of everyone else that we forget about ourselves.  Put time in your schedule to do something for you.  For all of you electronic-junkies out there, set a recurring appointment in your Blackberry, iPhone, or smartphone for some "me-time".  Whether it's 30-minutes for exercising, 15-minutes to take a walk outside, or 10-minutes to be "electronic-free", schedule it into your day.  After several "me-time" appointments, you will start to notice a positive change in your mood and an increase in energy level.

Whatever you choose to focus on in 2012, be sure to refer back to our blog on setting S.M.A.R.T. goals.  The more time and thought you put into establishing healthy behaviors, the more successful you will be in the long run.  Still need help with making long-term, lifestyle changes?  Make an appointment with a nutrition specialist or fitness professional here at PROMATx Health Club.  We can help you to define what area(s) to work on and how to go about achieving your goals.

Be S.M.A.R.T., stay strong, and stay focused!!

"As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world. . . as in being able to remake ourselves".  --Mahatma Gandhi

Monday, December 26, 2011

What Does Being "Healthy" Mean to You?

As trainers, we see people in all shapes and sizes.  Each client comes to us with different goals, different abilities, and different attitudes.  Some feel they are "healthy" but just need to lose a few pounds; others feel as if they are the furthest thing from "healthy".  Many clients define "healthy" as strictly an outward appearance (i.e., slim body, toned muscles).  What is your definition of "healthy"?  And, most importantly, how do you stack up to your definition?

If you look up the word "healthy" in the dictionary, this is one of the definitions:  possessing or enjoying good health, or a sound and vigorous mentality.  The World Health Organization (WHO) defined health in its broader sense in 1946 as "a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity".  However different organizations define the word, people must begin to look at being "healthy" as more than just an outward appearance and the absence of disease.

Our mere outward appearance can be very deceiving.  Just because a person is "slim and trim" doesn't mean they are healthy.  Body fat percentages can run high in this body type.  How, you ask?  It's possible for a "slim and trim" person to have higher percentages of visceral fat (located around the organs) versus subcutaneous fat (located just below the skin).  Visceral fat is harder to see by the naked eye and contributes to "belly fat".  Therefore outward appearances neglect to show hidden dangers.

Other factors contributing to overall health are blood pressure (refer back to our blog, High Blood Pressure), high triglycerides and cholesterol, hormone imbalance, adrenal fatigue, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)...this list goes on!!  It is very important to "know your numbers".  You should know what your blood pressure is and what your lipid profile (cholesterol and triglycerides) looks like.  Those of you who exercise on a regular basis, do you know your numbers?  If not, you are neglecting an important piece to the puzzle of "health".

With a new year fast approaching, maybe it's time for you to take a step back and look at your puzzle of health.  Do all the pieces fit together?  Is the border (outward appearance) intact but still missing a few pieces?  Take control of your health and find those missing pieces.  Schedule your annual exam with your health care practitioner and look at contributing factors mentioned in this blog.  Schedule an appointment with a fitness professional and learn how you can not only improve your outward appearance but also tune up what's hiding beneath the skin.  Finally, schedule an appointment with a nutrition specialist and look at the fuel you are putting in your body.  When all of the pieces of your puzzle fit together, your body becomes a well-oiled, fine-tuned machine.  Our bodies are built to's time for you to start with a tune-up!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cardiac Risk During the Holidays

Have you heard of the "Merry Christmas coronary" or the "Happy Hanukkah heart attack"?  You may feel the flutter of your heart when you open your new iPad or the latest fitness gadget or (if you're lucky enough) see the new car in your driveway.  However, for many years, researchers have been intrigued by a disturbing pattern: Deadly heart attacks increase during the winter holiday season.  One study even found distinct spikes around Christmas and New Year's Day.  Why is that?

Those of us who grew up in the colder climates of the north like to think it's from the exertion of shoveling snow during cold temperatures.  Doctors have long known that cold weather is hard on the heart.  Blood vessels constrict, which raises blood pressure.  Blood also clots more readily.  Frigid temperatures increase strain on the heart, and too much physical exertion can worsen the burden and trigger a heart attack. While that may be true, it doesn't account for similar statistics in warmer climates.  In a study done in Los Angeles County, California, researchers found one-third more coronary artery disease deaths in December and January as compared to June through September.

Another study published in 2004 in the journal Circulation, researchers found the number of deaths from cardiac episodes were higher on Christmas day than any other day of the year!  The second and third highest were December 26 and January 1st, respectively.  What were their conclusions for these numbers?  Researches concluded that many people might delay getting treatment because of the holidays.  People feel they should disrupt celebrations and travel due to chest pains and other symptoms of cardiac trouble.  Researchers also suspected that overindulgence and emotional stress play a large role in the higher numbers during December and January.

So how can you prevent the Christmas coronary?  Be smart during the holiday season.  Most importantly if you are experience signs and symptoms of a heart attack (chest pain, shortness of breath, indigestion - especially in women, crushing or heavy feeling in the chest, pain in neck or jaw radiating down through left arm, nausea) please call 9-1-1 immediately or go to an emergency room.  Other ways to play it smart this season:
  • Dress appropriately for your climate AND activity.  Dressing in layers is helpful because you can add or take away as you warm up or cool down.
  • Try to remain as stress-free as possible.  Give yourself  some "me-time" so you can get away from the hustle and bustle.
  • Make good choices.  Limit alcohol intake, drink lots of water, and choose nutrient-dense foods.
  • Get a flu shot.  Infection and fever put undue stress on the heart.
  • Maintain your exercise plan.  Making time for exercise on a daily basis will help control stress, improve sleep quality, and help you make better choices when visiting the holiday buffets!!
Don't become a statistic.  Your friends and family would like you to stay around for a long time!!  Be healthy, be happy, and most importantly, be alive this holiday season!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What to Look for in a Personal Trainer
Personal training has been a growing industry for many years.  From celebrities down to your average John/Jane Doe to kids training for sports, personal trainers work with a variety of individuals.  If you are considering working with a personal trainer, where do you start?  How do you know if a trainer is right for you?  This blog will give you some guidelines to follow and questions to ask when looking for a personal trainer.

So either you have been out of the exercise world for a little while and need help getting back in or you are working out but not seeing the it time to hire a trainer?  It just may be.  The trick is figuring out where to go and who to talk to about training.  If you already belong to a gym or health club, talk with the owner or club director and get some general information about their training (i.e., price, packages, trainers).  If you don't already have a membership somewhere, ask your friends and coworkers where they go or who their trainer is.  Visit several facilities before you make your final decision so you can look at location, gym atmosphere, and type of members. 

Once you narrow down facilities and are comfortable with the gym hours, location and atmosphere, you will need to determine if they have the trainers who will help you reach your goals.  Make an appointment with the training director to obtain more details about their trainers.  Find out background information about the trainers such as degrees and certifications.  Ladies, if you prefer to work with women, ask how many trainers are female.  The training director should also be asking you questions about your goals, health history, motivation and confidence levels, and, most importantly, what brought you into their club/facility.
If the training director determines the appropriate trainer for you, ask to meet with that person before signing any contracts.  Just because the director deems a trainer is "fit" for you doesn't mean you will feel the same way.  Ask the trainer about their training style.  If their personality is "boot-camp"-mentality and you shut down when someone is over top of you yelling and screaming for you to do more reps, that won't be a good fit.  Also, find out what their schedule is like...if they only have 5a and 6a appointments available and you are not a morning person, you probably will not be successful.  

Finally, if you have narrowed down the facility and the trainer(s), find out a little more about the specifics of the training commitment.  What is the cancellation policy for appointments?  What happens if you are not satisfied with your trainer?  Is there a money-back guarantee on their "promises"?  How long do you have to use the purchased sessions (i.e., expiration date).  Once you have all the bases covered, sign on the dotted line!!!!

A trainer can help motivate and push you to reach your goals.  Can't afford a package with many sessions?  Ask about purchasing just one or two sessions to give you the guidance you need to spice up your workouts.  PROMATx Health Club has the trainers to help you.  Come in and talk to Brad Covington, owner and training director, and find out how we can help you get on track and reach your goals.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sleep Hygiene...How's Yours??

How are your sleep habits?  Do you get sufficient, quality sleep?  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 25% of Americans are sleep deprived.  In today's society, being "on the go" 24/7 is taking its toll on people.  Sleep deprivation affects more than just how you feel...mental cognition is lower; growth hormone secretion is lower which can lead to weight gain, hypertension and cardiovascular problems; increased risk of drowsy driving; increased risk of injury.  The signs of sleep deprivation are there but do you know how to improve your sleep habits?

Sleep hygiene is a variety of different practices that are necessary to have normal, quality nighttime sleep and full daytime alertness.  Here's a short list of tips for improving your sleep.
  1. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other chemicals that interfere with sleep.
    • Caffeine and nicotine are both stimulants and should be avoided 4-6 hours prior to bedtime.
    • Alcohol is a depressant and even though it may bring on sleep, it acts as a stimulant after a few hours thus increasing the likelihood of waking up during sleep.  Limit alcohol consumption to a couple drinks per day and avoid alcohol within 3 hours of bedtime.
  2. Make your bedroom into a "sleep-inducing" zone.
    • Sleep quality improves in a dark, cool environment.  Keep bedroom temperature 60-75 degrees and make sure the room is well ventilated.  
    • Use dark curtains (or "black-out" shades) or a sleep mask to keep it darker longer.
    • Try earplugs or "white noise" machine to drown out noise.
    • Use your bedroom for sleeping only, not watching TV or working on your computer.
  3. Start a "pre-sleep" routine.
    • Help your body prepare for sleep by doing soothing, relaxing activities before bed such as reading or taking a bath.
    • Avoid activities that will stimulate the body/mind such as doing work or discussing psychological or emotional issues.  This will increase the release of cortisol which may increase alertness.
  4. Go to sleep when you are tired.
    • If you force yourself to go to sleep when your body and mind are not ready, it can be frustrating.  If you are still awake after 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing such as reading or listening to soft music.  Once you begin to feel tired, go back to bed.
  5. Maintain consistent sleep patterns.
    • Make a habit of going to bed and getting up at the same time every day.  You body will begin to sense the pattern and sleep will come easier if it knows that bedtime is arriving.
  6. Napping may or may not work.
    • Individuals who find it difficult to get to sleep or who wake often during the night should avoid napping.
    • If your sleep habits allow for quality sleep, napping might be helpful but try to "finish" napping by 5pm.
  7. Eat dinner early.
    • Give your body a chance to digest your dinner completely before going to bed.  
    • Avoid heavy meals within several hours of bedtime.  Not only with this help your sleep quality but you will avoid indigestion.
  8. Exercise...exercise...exercise.
    • Exercise improves your sleep habits and quality but make sure it's not done too late.  Exercise increases alertness so refrain from exercise within 3 hours of bedtime.
Hopefully these tips will help you to improve your sleep hygiene.  Stay consistent and you will notice a difference.  Sleep deprivation is serious and if you continue to struggle with developing quality sleep habits, seek the advice of your healthcare practitioner.   Your body needs rest and it will tell you when enough is enough!!

"A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book".  ~ Irish Proverb

Friday, December 16, 2011

Improve Your Sleep Quality by Exercising

In this month's edition of the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity, researchers found that sleep quality improved through participation in regular physical activity.  Among adults in the United States, about 35 to 40 percent of the population has problems with falling asleep or with daytime sleepiness.  In this study of more than 2,600 men and women, ages 18-85, researchers found that 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a week provided a 65% improvement in sleep quality.  Study participants also reported feeling less sleepy during the day as compared to those with less physical activity.

We all know physical activity has many health benefits.  This study shows another positive effect of regular physical activity.  In 2008, studies showed more than 56 million sleeping pill prescriptions were filled, up 54% in four years.  According to one of the authors in this study, Brad Cardinal, a professor of exercise science at Oregon State University, "increasingly, the scientific evidence is encouraging as regular physical activity may serve as a non-pharmaceutical alternative to improve sleep."

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and American Heart Association (AHA) both recommend 30 minutes of daily, moderate-intensity activity five days a week.  This equates to the 150 minutes mentioned above.  Are you getting enough physical activity in your day?  Regular physical activity will not only benefit your waistline but also many other aspects of your life, including sleep.  While many studies have shown that regular exercise doesn't necessarily increase the quantity of sleep, researchers are finding improvements in sleep quality.  During sleep your body repairs cells and resets bodily functions.  Lack of quality sleep inhibits vital processes which can ultimately lead to sickness and injuries.

If you are feeling sleepy throughout the day, take a look back at your sleep habits then evaluate how often you exercise.  While it might be tempting to sacrifice exercise for sleep, you will be better off in the long run by adding in that dose of daily exercise.  In our next blog, we will look at how to improve the quality of your sleep by changing your actual sleep habits.  

In the meantime, get up, get physical, get healthy, and sleep better!!!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Setbacks...Helpful or Harmful?

We've all been there before.  We've worked hard to reach a goal or complete a task, when "Bam!"...something gets in our way.  Life get sick, the boss gives you more work than you can handle, the car breaks down.  Remember the saying "two steps forward, one step back"?  Does that have positive or negative connotations for you?  If it seems negative to you, why not turn that statement around..."one step back, two steps forward".

It's natural to feel guilty when you have a misstep.  The trick is not letting the guilt overwhelm you and take control of the situation.  A misstep in your fitness or weight loss goal is just that...a misstep.  If, as a child, we gave up every time we fell when learning to walk, where would we be today?  Sometimes it is easier said than done.

Missteps come in many shapes and sizes.  Maybe you planned a family vacation and it interrupted your regular exercise routine.  Perhaps you were seeing positive changes in the way your body looks when the holidays approached and you snacked a little too much.  Instead of beating yourself up about what went wrong, ask yourself, "where do I go from here".  Take a look back and reevaluate what happened and how, if possible, you can prevent that misstep in the future.

Staying motivated during setbacks can be difficult.  Keep the negative thoughts at bay by getting back to your regular routine as soon as you can.  Talk about your setback with a friend, family member or workout partner.  Plan ahead for the next time you are faced with the same setback.  If holiday parties and festivities put too many food temptations in front of you, eat a healthy meal BEFORE you attend the party.  That way you won't be tempted to indulge in all of the goodies.  Sample a few but you since you have eaten prior to the party, you should only want a few, if any, of the temptations.  Even though we cannot plan for sicknesses or mechanical failures (cars, washing machines, etc.), we can have a back up such as a home workout plan.  DVDs are a great back up plan for the times you cannot make it to the gym.  The neighborhood park is an excellent outdoor gym.

Remember..."one step back, two steps forward".  Setbacks can be helpful because it can redirect your focus.  Stay motivated and stay positive.  Also, don't try to "double-up" because you had a setback.  Maintain your focus and be committed to do things right as much as you can!!  Need a little extra help with motivation?  Come in to PROMATx Health Club and talk with a trainer or nutrition specialist.  We can help you get back on track.

"Fall seven times, get up eight." 
-- Japanese proverb

Monday, December 12, 2011

Martial Arts Heavy Bag Workout

Looking for something different to spice up your workout routine?  How many times have you been frustrated from work or some situation when you come to the gym?  Exercise is a great way to relieve that stress, but if you really want to get out some frustration and the treadmill isn’t cutting it, try your hand at boxing on a hanging bag.  You will reap all the benefits of your typical cardio workout plus some strength and core training.  This is a very effective cardio conditioning and fat loss activity because it is centered around high-intensity bursts of activity. 

Here are a few keys to remember when working on a heavy bag to maximize your workout in a safe manner.
  1. Use gloves.
  2. When making a fist, curl your thumb around the outside of your fingers, do not tuck it inside or stick it out to the side. 
  3. Aim to hit the bag with the large knuckles of your index and middle finger. 
  4. Keep your wrist straight and make sure there is no bend to avoid injury. 
  5. To get the most power out of your hit, visualize hitting the bag 1-2 inches past where the bag really is (aiming through the pad instead of to the pad).
Try this workout the next time you feel like kicking the snot out of something!

Burpee punches -- 1 min 

  • Crouch down to the floor and hop your feet back into a push up position. 
  • Hop back in and return to standing. 
  • Once standing punch twice (once each hand) and return to the burpee. 
  • Repeat.

Power elbows -- 30 sec each arm

  • Stand with one foot slightly in front of the other facing the hanging bag.
  • Using the outside of the forearm (keeping your hand close to your chest), strike the hanging bag generating your strike power by twisting through your core.
  • Repeat rapidly.

Lunge snap kicks -- 30 sec each leg

  • Stand with one foot in front of the other. 
  • Bend both knees until there is a 90 degree angle in both the front and back knee. 
  • Rise out of the lunge position as you kick out to the front with your back leg
  • Keep your toe pointed at the ceiling and return to lunge position. 
  • Repeat.

Knees -- 30 sec each leg

  • Grasp the hanging bag for stability and stand with one leg in front of the other. 
  • Using your back leg, bring your knee to the bag.
  • Return to original position.
  • Repeat rapidly.

Plank punches -- 1 min

  • Start in a plank position (stabilizing yourself on toes and forearms holding your stomach off the floor).
  • Punch the bag in front of you, alternating punching hands.

Complete 3-5 rounds

Enjoy the workout!!  A special thanks to one of PROMATx Health Club's trainers, Shawn Massey, for designing this workout for you.  Want more information about martial arts workouts?  Stop in at PROMATx and find out how you can learn more about incorporating martial arts into your exercise routine!!

Friday, December 9, 2011

7 Worst Holiday Foods

In a recent article in Men's Health Magazine, the newest edition of "Eat This, Not That!" is featured and highlights the 7 worst holiday foods (and healthier substitutions).  If you haven't read any of the "Eat This, Not That!" books, you really should take a look at them.  You'll probably be surprised (and shocked) about the nutritional information in some of your favorite foods.  Here's a look at which foods made the list.

#7 Worst Holiday Beverage -- Organic Valley Eggnog (1 cup)
  • 360 calories
  • 20g fat (12g saturated fat)
  • 34g sugar
Healthier alternative:  Bolthouse Farms Holiday Nog (1 cup)
  • 160 calories
  • 3g fat (2g saturated fat)
  • 24g sugar
#6 Worst Holiday Coffeehouse Drink -- Starbucks Peppermint Mocha (grande)
  • 410 calories
  • 15g fat (9g saturated fat)
  • 34g sugar
Healthier alternative -- Cappuccino w/ 2 pumps of peppermint syrup (grande)
  • 160 calories
  • 4g fat (2g saturated fat)
  • 20g sugar
#5 Worst Holiday Muffin -- Dunkin' Donuts Warm Cinnamon Swirl Muffin
  • 630 calories
  • 23g fat (7g saturated fat)
  • 56g sugar 
Healthier alternative -- Dunkin' Donuts Cinnamon Cake Munchkins (4 Munchkins)
  • 240 calories
  • 14g fat (6g saturated fat)
  • 12g sugar 
#4 Worst Holiday Candy -- Reese’s Peanut Butter Snowman
  • 760 calories
  • 44g fat (16g saturated fat)
  • 68g sugar 
Healthier alternative -- Reese’s Peanut Butter Tree
  • 170 calories
  • 10g fat (3g saturated fat)
  • 16g sugar 
#3 Worst Holiday Ice Cream Treat -- Dairy Queen Reindeer Bites Blizzard (medium)
  • 950 calories
  • 39g fat (27g saturated fat)
  • 94g sugar
Healthier alternative -- Dairy Queen Caramel Sundae (small)
  • 300 calories
  • 8g fat (5g saturated fat)
  • 35g sugar
 #2 Worst Holiday Sandwich -- Denny’s Holiday Turkey Melt with Fries
  • 1,300 calories
  • 57g fat (13g saturated fat)
  • 3,210mg sodium
Healthier alternative -- Club Sandwich w/ Fit Fare Veggies
  • 665 calories
  • 34g fat (5g saturated fat)
  • 1,615mg sodium
 #1 Worst Holiday Breakfast -- IHOP Eggnog Pancakes (4 pancakes)
  • 2,150 calories
  • 84g fat (47g saturated)
  • 123g sugar
Healthier alternative -- Original Buttermilk Pancakes (short stack)
  • 490 calories
  • 18g fat (8g saturated fat)
  • 13g sugar

Don't ruin your holidays by busting your belt.  Save yourself from caloric gluttony and choose wisely this holiday season.  Go to library and check out the "Eat This, Not That!" books and learn a little more about the foods you may be eating.  Your waistline will thank you!!!

If you still need help choosing healthier alternatives, stop in at PROMATx Health Club and make an appointment with our nutrition specialist.  Better choices make for a healthier you.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Winter Vegetables

Fall is almost over (although the temperature outside may indicate winter has already arrived).  With the change of seasons, comes the change of vegetables.  Are you a winter veggie fan?  Do you know which ones are winter veggies?  Winter squashes like pumpkin, spaghetti, acorn, and butternut; turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, and horseradish are all examples of different winter veggies.

Winter squashes are packed with vitamins.  A one-cup serving of winter squash contains almost double the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of Beta-Carotene (protects cells against free radical damage, improves function of immune system and reproductive system, and a good source of Vitamin A), and lots of vitamin C, niacin, phosphorus, potassium and fiber too.  Native Americans considered squash so important that they buried it with their dead to nourish them in the afterlife. In fact, current research has proven their hunch, citing the anti-cancer and health-enhancing properties of this ancient vegetable. 

Root vegetables such as turnips, parsnips, rutabaga and jicama are all packed with vitamin C, fiber, and complex carbohydrates.  Root vegetables come in a variety of colors and most can be eaten raw or cooked.  These vegetables are cool-weather crops.  Roots such as beets, carrots, radishes, rutabagas, and turnips can be planted in early spring and late summer for two crops.  For a little history lesson, root vegetables were an essential part of the diet during the early evolution of humankind (about five million years ago) and American colonists relied heavily on root vegetables because they could be stored for months in the harsh New England winters.

Squash Soup in Pumpkin Bowl
Now that you know which veggies are winter ones, where do you go from there?  Try your hand a baking winter squash.  Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds (save them for later), place cut side down in a baking dish with about 1/2 inch of water (to prevent drying) and bake at 400 degrees for 30-60 minutes (depending on the type of squash).  Add butter or maple syrup and seasonings such as nutmeg, cinnamon or ginger.  Want to really impress your family or guests?  Try making a squash soup bowl.  Cut 1-1/2 inches off of the stem end, scoop out the seeds, and place cut side down in a baking dish. If the rounded end of the "bowl" is too round to sit evenly, slice just a sliver from the bottom to level it. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, or until tender. Add soup and serve.  What a pretty way to enjoy squash on cold winter evening.

Search the internet for other recipes using winter squashes and root vegetables.  Try a variety and find out which ones you (and your family) like the most.  Experiment with some of these crazy looking vegetables in the produce section of the grocery store.  Vitamin-packed and healthy for you...winter vegetables.  Buy some today!!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Exercising with Chronic Back Pain

Do you suffer from a chronic ailment or pain?  Well, take comfort in knowing you’re not the only one out there!  One of our long-time members, Sally Blake, wanted to share her story in hopes that it will inspire others also dealing with chronic pain.  Here's a Q&A session between Sally and her trainer, Amanda Tovar.

  • Describe the issue you are currently having with your back.
    • I have chronic back pain.  My back is very tight and I constantly feel a dull ache in my lower back.  I must take Advil every morning to deal with the pain.
  • How long have you dealt with chronic back pain?
    • About a year.
  • How has this affected your workouts?
    • I definitely have more limitations than I used to.  It can be very frustrating at times.  I feel like my body is older than my age. 
  • What has helped you stay motivated through this?
    • Maintaining a healthy body weight is very important to me.  That is a major motivation in itself.  Also, I know that not exercising will worsen my condition.
  • In what ways has your trainer helped you out?
    • You (Amanda) always gear my workouts towards gaining strength in my back.  You also do exercises with me to help loosen my back muscles.  We work a lot on my balance to prevent injuries.  You keep me motivated to keep coming to the gym!!
  • What would you say to someone with chronic pain who wants to start (or restart) exercising?
    • To really put forth an effort even though it will not be easy and most likely be uncomfortable.  It is definitely worth the effort.  It will help you in the long run!! 
If any of this rings true in your life, don’t let it get you down!  Take control by learning exercises that are right for you and be consistent in doing them!  Take a lesson from Sally Blake, “it’s worth the effort"!
Need more help getting started?  Come in a talk with a trainer here at PROMATx Health Club to find out how we can get you on the path to controlling your pain through exercise and stretching.

Monday, December 5, 2011

How Much Will That Alcoholic Drink Cost You This Holiday Season?

Remember the movie Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase where he tried to drown his sorrows with spiked egg nog?  Are you looking to imbibe a little at holiday parties?  How about ringing in the new year with a fancy cocktail?  Just how much will that drink (or drinks) cost you, calorie wise, this year? 

Quite few years ago, Laval University in St.-Foy, Quebec, published a study that indicated consuming alcohol, with its added calories, has no inhibitory effect on food intake but rather can lead to a caloric intake far beyond what the body requires.  In other words, the body "ignores" the calories from alcoholic drinks and "demands" the body consume food calories.  Thus resulting in higher calorie consumption overall.  Uh oh...that doesn't sound good!

Since that study was published, many other studies have been completed...all with conflicting results.  Some say alcohol consumption can lead to weight gain, while others found no relationship.  Let's take a look at the basics of alcohol.  Pure alcohol contains about 7 calories per gram, which is almost double the calories in carbohydrates and protein (4 calories per gram each) and just under the calorie content of fat (9 calories per gram).  Therefore alcoholic beverages contain calories and most of the calories come from the alcohol itself.  Despite what you may have heard, alcohol is NOT a carbohydrate.  Hard liquor is distilled so it contains no carbs.  Beer and wine both contain carbs so calories come from BOTH the alcohol AND the carbohydrates.  Here are some examples of carb contents of different alcoholic beverages:
  • Beer, regular (12 fl oz) - 13g
  • Beer, light (12 fl oz) - 4.5g
  • Guinness (1/2 pint) - 4g
  • Wine, red (3.5 fl oz) - 1.75g
  • Wine, rose(3.5 fl oz) - 1.5g
  • Wine, white (3.5 fl oz) - 1g
  • Gin, Rum, Vodka, Whisky (1 fl oz) - 0g
  • Sherry (2 fl oz) - 3g
  • Port (2 fl oz) - 6g

Now that you know general calorie contents of different alcohols, keep in mind the body will process alcohol first before it processes fat, carbs and protein.  This ultimately will slow down the fat metabolism and could possibly lead to weight gain.  Also, remember it's not just which type of alcoholic beverage you choose this holiday season, but also what you pair with it (i.e., sodas, juices and cream).  Spirits and holiday cheer are "empty calories" meaning they provide no useful nutrition.  Choose wisely this year and keep the "empty-calorie" consumption low.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sweets For My Sweetie!!

Having a hard time kicking the sweets habit?  It goes a little deeper than they just taste good.  In 2007, French scientists researched sugar in relation to addictive behavior.  Rats were given the option of drinking plain water, water laced with sugar, and water laced with cocaine.  After 24 hours, 94% of the rats preferred the sugar water over cocaine, one of the most addictive drugs.  This leads researchers to believe that sugar feeds the body’s reward system, similarly to addictive substances, causing addictive tendencies.   
Let’s back track and look at the science behind this.  Neurotransmitters in the brain relay information causing a “feeling response” such as happiness, tiredness, sadness, or relaxation.  The strength or weakness of the neurotransmitter plays an important role in a person’s ability to control food portions and choices.  Dopamine is the body’s “feel good” chemical and is found in high quantities when addictive substances such as drugs, alcohol, and nicotine are consumed.  As high quantities of dopamine are released they overstimulate the neuroreceptors causing a "high".  Continuous overstimulation slows the body’s natural release of dopamine, creating a dependence and compulsive behavior with the substance, in this case sugar, to experience the same amount of pleasure.  As with drugs, the body becomes tolerant to the same level of stimulus, so more is required to achieve the same response…meaning you eat more!!   
So the next time you look at a brownie or cupcake, look at it as more than something that tastes good and more than something that will end up on your midsection, but as a drug to which you can easily become dependent. 
Snack on...but snack wisely!!!
Information based on “It’s All In the Brain: Unlocking the Secrets of Overeating with Neuroscience” by Mary Monroe, IDEA Fitness Journal, p44.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I Don't Like the Taste of Water - Do You?

As trainers, we hear clients say "I don't like the taste of water".  What??  Water is essential to life and as we previously discussed in the blog about water and weight loss, it just may be the key to your weight loss.  So why aren't you drinking enough water?  Believe us, we have heard every excuse in the book from "I'm not that thirsty" to "I don't like the taste of water".  Maybe you just haven't found the right way to drink it!

After briefly polling members and trainers in the gym, many people mentioned different ways they like to drink their water.  Some people like their water ice cold, while others prefer it to be room temperature.  Some prefer to add a few slices of oranges or lemons to add flavor; a few prefer to drink out of a container with a straw.  The key to increasing your daily water consumption is to find the way in which water entices you the most.  What works for others may not work for you. 

Your mission is to try different cups or containers and different temperatures of water every day for one week.  Try an insulated cup one day to keep your water colder longer.  The next day add slices of fruit or cucumbers for a different flavor.  Then try drinking it out of plastic bottle.  Believe it or not, there are a few people who do not like to drink out of a plastic bottle because they feel it changes the taste.  Purchase or borrow a resealable glass bottle and try your water that way.  This list is endless but the main goal is to try different ways and see which method works for you.  For those of you who like to keep record of things, make a daily log that shows not only HOW you drank your water but also HOW MUCH water you consumed.  You may see a big difference!

Who ever thought drinking water was so complicated??  It shouldn't be but you'll just have to do a little work to get started.  Once you find the method that works for you, start building your water intake a little at a time.  Theoretically you should be drinking half of your body weight of ounces of water.  For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should be drinking approximately 75 ounces of water a day.  That's around 4 1/2 small bottles (16.9 ounces) of water.  If that seems overwhelming, just start with smaller quantities and build up from there.

Remember, the signs of dehydration are immediate and many times we mistake hunger for signs of thirst.  So the next time you feel that hunger pang, try having a glass or two of water.  If you no longer are hungry, you most likely were just thirsty.  

Need more help getting started?  Stop in at PROMATx Health Club and talk with our nutrition specialist.  We can point you in the right direction and help keep your body adequately hydrated.

"Water, taken in moderation, cannot hurt anybody."  --Mark Twain

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Top 8 Most Artery-Clogging Cities

In a recent blog posted by Prevention magazine, the editors scoured through data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data on obesity and heart disease in major metropolitan areas (populations over 200,000).  They compiled a list of 8 cities and deemed them the "most artery-clogging cities".  Here's what they found....
  1. Detroit, MI - According to CDC data, Detroit residents have more report heart disease diagnoses than any other big city in the nation!!  Also, Detroit has an obesity rate of 33% (the state of Michigan's obesity rate is 30.9%).
  2. Fort Wayne, IN - Previously listed as number 4 of the top 5 cities with the most obesity (American Obesity Association, 2001), Fort Wayne has a lot of room for growth to fight obesity and heart disease.
  3. Lubbock, TX - Steakhouses and barbecue joints help to promote the 32% obesity rate among this Texas town.
  4. New Orleans, LA - Nothing better than deep fried anything, right?  Southern fried foods are keeping New Orleans on the list despite the fact that more than 25% of the city is parkland (one of the highest percentages in any U.S. city according to Prevention).
  5. Dallas, TX - According to Sandelman and Associates, a restaurant industry consultancy, Dallas residents consume fast food an average of 20.7 times per month (the national average is 17).
  6. Baton Rouge, LA -  In Gallup polling, less than half of Baton Rouge residents report exercising frequently.  Combine that with fat-laden Creole and Cajun foods, residents here don't seem to have problems clogging their arteries!
  7. Tulsa, OK - Apparently residents of Tulsa are not fans of walking.  According to Walk Score, an organization which promotes pedestrian-friendly communities, only 6% of Tulsa residents live in a neighborhood with a walk score of 70 or above (100 being best) and 57% live in entirely car-dependent locales.
  8. Louisville, KY - Uh oh...did we just mention Kentucky??  Louisville contains more McDonald's restaurants per capita (39) than any city in the country, according to a Daily Beast/Newsweek report, plus 20 Arby's, 17 Dairy Queens and 19 Papa John's.  Aside from their ranking, Louisville was listed on the top 25 cities by Bicycling magazine as one of the most bike-friendly cities in the nation.
Even though some of these cities have access to walking and biking paths, parks, and healthy farmer's markets and community gardens, residents still choose unhealthy lifestyles.  Americans need to start making healthier choices.  Let's not be another statistic.  Choose happy.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Low-Impact Workouts and Baby Boomers

Walk into any gym or health club and you'll see a good population of baby boomers exercising.  Our life expectancy in the United States is 78.1 years, according to the World Bank in 2009.  People are living longer due to better health care and the fact that many boomers are hitting the gym.  Theoretically you are never too old to start an exercise program.  Obviously the earlier in life you start the better off you'll be, however considerable strength gains can be seen in people over the age of 80 with consistent exercise routines. 

A fairly recent ARTICLE in the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) journal, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, found that older people have to work out more than younger people to maintain muscle mass.  However, workouts can be tough if you fall into that age group (ages 60-75, in the study) especially since your joints are more often susceptible to injury.  What can you do?  Where do you start if you are a boomer?

If you are a beginner, remember to start slower (i.e., 5-10 minutes) and work up to a minimum of 20 minutes every day.  Once you reach a consistent schedule of 20 minutes of exercise on a daily basis, increase your intensity.  Here are some ideas of low impact workouts that will be easy on your joints, yet help you reach recommended activity levels.
  1. Walking - Almost everyone can do this activity.  The cost is fairly low (the price of a good pair of walking shoes) and it can be performed in almost any location!  We're not just talking about taking a stroll through the neighborhood.  You'll need to kick it up a notch once you are comfortable with walking for exercise.  Try walking in a hilly area or increase your speed for short distances during your walk (i.e. intervals).  No good walking paths in your area?  Hit the mall.  You can window shop, people watch, and increase your physical activity all at the same time!
  2. Rowing - Are you an outdoorsy person?  Do you have access to a lake?  Rent a kayak and paddle away your stress.  Not ready to hit the open water?  Most health clubs have a rowing machine so you can get a similar workout with the fear of falling in the water.  A 160-pound person can burn approximately 180 calories rowing at a moderate intensity for 20 minutes.
  3. Body Weight Exercises - Lifting your own body weight, in most cases, can be an excellent workout.  Start simple with push-ups on the wall or at an angle (i.e, against the kitchen counter) then work your way down to the floor.  Take a yoga or pilates class where you use your own body as resistance.
  4. Swimming - This is the best form of non-impact exercise.  If you are battling a chronic injury that makes it difficult to walk or stand, try your hand at swimming.  Take a swimming lesson at your local pool to refresh (or learn) strokes.  A 160-pound person can burn approximately 150 calories swimming for 20 minutes.
  5. Weight Training - Here is a great way to burn calories and build strength at the same time.  Start simple by using machines at the gym, then progress to some free weight (i.e., dumbbells) exercises.  Form is important so get some expert advice from a trained exercise professional.
  6. Water Exercises - Ready to take a stab at water-based exercise classes?  Check out the schedule at your local pool and jump in!  You can burn at least 100 calories performing basic water exercises...increase your intensity and you'll burn even more!  Most people can do more exercises in the water than they can do on land.  Running and jumping in water versus on land is much easier on the joints.
  7. Group Exercise Classes - Want to build strength and endurance and build camaraderie all at the same time?  Try a group exercise class that is geared towards low-impact movements.  Some classes have a mixture of strength and cardio moves while others, like Zumba, focus more on improving endurance.  (Check out the group fitness schedule here at PROMATx by clicking HERE.)
  8. Cardio Equipment - Some cardio equipment, like bicycles, rowing machines, and elliptical/arc trainers, allow for low-impact moves.  Not sure which machine you can handle for 20 minutes or more?  Add a mixture of machines...cycle for 5-10 minutes, row for 5-10 minutes, then climb on the arc trainer.  This will reduce your boredom and vary the muscles used during the exercises.
  9. Circuit Training - Put together a group of exercises and perform them repeatedly one right after the other.  This can be a combination of strength and cardio moves or just one or the other.  Adding a variety of sit-to-stand exercises will build stamina and replicates daily activities making it more "functional".  By performing the circuit as quickly as you can (with proper form), you'll increase your heart rate and burn more calories throughout the workout.  A 160-pound person can burn approximately 200 calories in 20 minutes of circuit training.
Hopefully, this short list will give you some ideas of exercises you can do, while still keeping it easy on your joints.  Just remember, if you are a true beginner or if it has been an extended time since you've exercised on a regular basis, check with your healthcare practitioner first before starting an exercise program.  Once you have been cleared for exercise, contact a fitness professional, such as the trainers here at PROMATx Health Club, for expert advice on creating your exercise routine.

Don't let age be a reason why you are not exercising.  It's never too late to start.  Not only will you improve your health status but you will also be reducing your chance for injuries.  Do it it for your health...but most importantly, do it for yourself!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

10 Tips for Surviving Thanksgiving Day

It's almost upon us...the feast some of us have been waiting for all year.  With one day left before Thanksgiving, it's time to make a plan for how you will handle tomorrow's events.  A little planning and a little effort will help you get through this holiday and still maintain a little health and fitness sanity.
  1. Eat a healthy breakfast.  In a previous BLOG, we talked about the importance of breakfast.  It sets the tone for your eating habits the rest of the day.  So start your Thanksgiving morning with a healthy dose of protein to stave off hunger early in the day.  This will lower your chances of overeating because you are "starving".
  2. Snack wisely.  Going to a friend's or family member's home for the big meal?  Watch out for the appetizers that may be laden with fat and calories.  Indulge on a couple of the tasty appetizers but do so sparingly.  Munch on fresh fruits and veggies instead.  
  3. Watch the "empty calories" in alcoholic drinks.  While it is OK to imbibe a holiday drink to toast family and friends, be sure to add low- or no-calorie, non-alcoholic drinks in between drinks.  Have a glass of sparkling water with fresh fruit.
  4. Have a balanced plate during dinner.  Put smaller plates on the dinner table this year.  If you don't have control over which plate you use, don't fill your whole plate with food.  Divide your plate in thirds...1/3 of your plate should have lean protein (i.e., turkey breast) and the remaining 2/3 should have whole grains, fruits and vegetables.  
  5. Eat slowly and enjoy pleasant conversation.  It takes 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that it is full.  So slow down while eating your Thanksgiving meal and converse with friends and family.  It's not a race to see who can eat the most or eat the fastest.  Take time to enjoy and savor the food.
  6. Wait on (but don't skip) dessert.  Instead of having that slice of pie right after your meal, save it for later.  You'll enjoy it more when you are not already full from your meal.
  7. Add activity to your holiday.  Many cities (Lexington especially) have a road race or charity event on Thanksgiving morning.  Get into the holiday spirit and join fellow community members for a pre-Thanksgiving holiday calorie burn.  Don't feel like getting up early to do this?  Go for a walk with family members (or your favorite four-legged friend) or get the family together for friendly game of football or basketball. 
  8. Be realistic during Thanksgiving.  Let's face it, some of us will overeat during this holiday.  Don't beat yourself up and think you can't "come back" from this set-back.  The important thing to remember is to get back to your regular routine the next day.  One day of splurge won't ruin your health and fitness goals!
  9. Learn to say "no" this year.  Just because your favorite Aunt brought her butter-laden, high-calorie casserole to the dinner table, doesn't mean you have to eat it.  Thank her graciously and choose wisely!!
  10. Remember what Thanksgiving really means.  Thanksgiving isn't about the's about being thankful.  Be thankful for loved ones, past and present.  Show your appreciation for those who may have helped you through difficult times this year.  Create an atmosphere of fun, love, and camaraderie this holiday season.  Enjoy time with friends and family either in person or over the phone.
We hope these tips will help you to have an enjoyable and healthy Thanksgiving this year.  Take a moment to think about what you are thankful for in your life.  Be happy, be wise, be active...but most of all, be healthy!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How S.M.A.R.T. Are Your Goals?

We all know when it comes to improving our health and fitness, setting goals is a necessary process.  But are your goals effective?  Are they helping you achieve success?  Or could they actually be hurting your progress?

The acronym S.M.A.R.T. has long been used by psychologists to help individuals remember important characteristics of engaging in behaviors through goal setting, focusing on the overall process and outcome of a desired activity.  Take a few minutes and use the S.M.A.R.T. method to see how your goals are measuring up!

Specific goals provide enough detail to identify the action required to accomplish the goal.  Good example:  To eat at least three servings of vegetables a day.  Bad example: To be healthier.

Measurable goals identify what tasks are to be accomplished and when they have been reached.  Good example:  To lose 15 lbs by February 1st.  Bad example:  To lose weight.

Attainable goals focus on activity that will produce results.  Good example:  To walk three times per week for 10 minutes.  Bad example: To get into shape.

Realistic goals refer to the practicality of reaching desired outcomes.  Good example:  To walk for 30 minutes at lunchtime.  Bad example:  To run 20 miles a day.

Time-Anchored goals enable individuals to monitor progress at regular intervals.  Good example:  To lift weights 2 times a week for a month.  Bad example:  To lift weights 2 times a week. 

Hopefully your goals are S.M.A.R.T. ones!  If not, take the time to re-evaluate them and make them more effective.  Remember our PROMATx trainers are always available to help you set and reach your health and fitness goals!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Exercise and Pregnancy...A Little Motivational Note

Today's blog is brought to you from one of our trainers, Carol Brown.  In addition to being a member of the PROMATx team, Carol has 3 beautiful daughters and is expecting another child early next year.  

Pregnancy is exciting, challenging, an emotional rollercoaster… I can sit here all day and find many adjectives for one of the most exciting experiences that a woman’s body goes through in life.

With all the challenges of being pregnant, one thing women think of the least is exercising while going through those challenges.  Medical professionals have become more and more aware of the benefits of exercising during pregnancy and more women are taking advantage of that knowledge.

The most common problems we encounter that keep us from exercising during pregnancy are sickness, the lack of energy and lack of motivation.  I’ve had 3 kids and am pregnant with my 4th.  My goal in writing this is to motivate those who are expecting, planning to be pregnant or just delivered to take this journey with an open mind on your expectations of fitness and all the obstacles you will encounter.  Exercising will be less challenging and more beneficial if you keep the expectations low but the habit of exercising constant.

The best approach I encounter is to make sure I move my body a little every day, even if very slow!  Not expecting to perform a certain amount every day, but instead, listening to my body gives me the liberty to not feel guilty if I don’t do much that day.  It also gives me the benefit of feeling good for doing something at all, even if I’m nauseated, stressed, depressed or just plain exhausted!  So keeping my eye on the prize (my precious children) and my body in moving gear gives me that little extra energy to be a better mom, wife, and a better me for making time to keep my body and mind healthy.

"For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved." (Romans 10:10)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Go Red for Women

Today in Central Kentucky, we celebrate "Go Red For Women" with the American Heart Association (AHA).   In a previous blog, HEART HEALTH, we talked about a little about heart disease and which lifestyle factors contribute to heart disease in everyone.  Today, we will focus strictly on the ladies.  According to the AHA, more women die of cardiovascular disease than from the next four causes of death combined, including all forms of cancer.  Unfortunately 80% of cardiac events in women could be prevented if women made the right choices for their hearts involving diet, exercise and abstinence from smoking.

Let's look at some staggering statistics for women and heart disease:
  • 8 million women in the US are currently living with heart disease; 35,000 are under age of 65. Four million suffer from angina.
  • 435,000 American women have heart attacks annually; 83,000 are under age 65; 35,000 are under 55. The average: 70.4.
  • 42% of women who have heart attacks die within 1 year, compared to 24% of men.
  • Under age 50, women’s heart attacks are twice as likely as men’s to be fatal.
  • 267,000 women die each year from heart attacks, which kill six times as many women as breast cancer. Another 31,837 women die each year of congestive heart failure, representing 62.6% of all heart failure deaths.
What exactly is a heart attack?  A heart attack is when blood flow to the heart is blocked.  When this happens the heart doesn't receive the oxygen it needs and part of the heart and the affected blood vessel(s) can die.  Although the symptoms of a heart attack are the same in women and men (chest pain and discomfort), women often feel some of the other symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back/jaw pain.  Ladies, if you experience any of the following symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Getty Images
  1. Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  2. Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  3. Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  4. Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
So why do women delay getting medical attention for heart attacks more than men?  There are several reasons including: 
  • Many times they don't know the heart attack warning signs and symptoms
  • They mistakenly think "crushing chest pain" is the only heart attack symptom
  • They falsely believe that only men and very old people have heart attacks
  • They are pre-occupied with family responsibilities, can't get childcare or transportation, or don't want to impose their needs on others
  • They are depressed, fatalistic about their health, or resigned to suffering
Now that we know the depressing, dark facts about heart disease in women, let's take a stand against this disease.  What are you waiting for...a ride to the hospital?  Get off the couch, put down the fast food, and get healthy!  If you don't take care of yourself first, it will be difficult for you to take care of your family.  This is a plea to everyone who has a woman in their life they care to her and tell her how much she means to you and how much you want her to live a full, happy, and healthy life.  Take a stand against heart disease. 

For more information on heart disease, visit the American Heart Association's website.