Friday, January 27, 2012

Tips To Boost Your Energy...Naturally

Need an energy boost?  Don't we all!!!  Instead of reaching for the energy drink or that shot of caffeine, try some of these tips for a natural approach to boosting your energy.
  1. Drink lots of water.  What??  Don't weigh yourself down with sugar-laden drinks.  Good ole' fashion water keeps you hydrated and makes your body more efficient.  Dehydration affects every part of your body, including your brain.  Fuzzy thinking, low energy, slow name it and it is probably the effect of dehydration.
  2. Eat nutritiously-dense foods.  Pack your plate with fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and complex carbohydrates.  Stay away from foods with high fat contents (like fried foods) that will make you feel sluggish and run down.
  3. Get active...stay active.  Physical activity boosts serotonin levels which improve your mood and make you feel better.  If you haven't started a regular exercise program, why not start today?  Get rid of the excuses and get moving.  Our bodies are designed for motion and our muscles thrive on staying strong.
  4. Reduce the load on your shoulders.  Take a load off and start reducing some of the stress in your life.  You've heard the phrase (and the books) "Don't sweat the small stuff".  Let go of the things you have no control over (i.e., weather and traffic) and focus your energy on things you can change in your life.  Learn healthy ways to manage your stress.
  5. Take a breath of fresh air.  Get outside and absorb some sunshine and breathe in the fresh air.  Take a break from the indoors and step outside.  Take a walk around your office building, grab your four-legged friend and tour the neighborhood, go to the park and climb on a swing...just get outside!  A change of scenery may be just what you need to boost your energy and lift your spirits.
  6. Help your body repair...get some rest.  Do you get enough sleep at night?  Is it good quality sleep?  Your body makes a lot of repairs during sleep and if you aren't getting enough, you won't be functioning at top capacity.  Try not to sacrifice sleep to get things done.  It will hurt you in the long run.  Mental and physical fatigue will set in and will make it very difficult to perform simple, daily tasks.  Get your rest.
Seems pretty easy, huh?  You bet!  So the next time you need that little pick-me-up, put down the can of so-called energy and try one of these healthy-alternatives to boosting your energy.   Obviously, the trainers and staff here at PROMATx Health Club can help you with tip #3 but you have to make the first move.  If you aren't here, we can't help you.  Stop in today and let us teach you how to get that natural "high"!!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fight the Winter Blahs

In the wintertime, do you just feel "blah"?  Is it hard for you to get motivated to do anything let alone exercise during winter?  You are not alone.  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that approximately 36 million Americans suffer from depressive symptoms during the colder months.  Some Americans may experience more severe symptoms and may be diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder, or SAD for short.  SAD is classified by symptoms of depression that make performing regular, daily activities difficult.  A lesser, milder version of SAD is the "winter blues".  Although people are able to function when suffering from the "blues/blahs", symptoms are still similar.  Symptoms often include fatigue, weight gain, sleep problems such as insomnia and hypersomnia (sleeping too much), mood swings, introversion and food cravings.  The problem many doctors have in diagnosing SAD is the symptoms overlap with many sleep disorders and other forms of depression.  What causes the winter blahs?  Research had shown the increase in darkness during the winter months causes an overproduction of melatonin, also known as the "hibernation hormone".  Also, with reduced amounts of sunlight, serotonin levels are reduced which ultimately increase the depression-like symptoms. 

Where do you go from here?  As the days get shorter and darkness arrives earlier in the day, it's important to stay active as much as possible.  If the weather isn't too bad, take a walk or go for a jog.  Not only will you reap the benefits of the cardiovascular benefits but also you'll get a little bit of daylight to keep those winter hormones under control.  Try to maintain a regular exercise routine, as hard as it might feel, throughout the cold, dark winter months.  Other things you can do include brightening up your office and home.  Open shades/blinds, trim back trees/shrubs that may block windows and keep curtains pulled back throughout the day.  If the days are still too gloomy and dark, you can invest in a sun light.  These lamps have special fluorescent bulbs that mimic the brightness of a sunny day.

Obviously if you reside in southern climates such as Florida, Alabama, and Georgia, you are less prone to suffer from symptoms of winter blahs or SAD.  Sunshine is more prevalent in these states thus reducing the chance of  "winter hormone" buildup.  Regardless of where you live, try to stay active as much as possible.  Exercise increases the "feel good" hormone serotonin and helps keep your mood positive any time of the year.  Still need help battling the "blahs?  Why not try something different for exercise...take a class, hire a trainer, workout with a friend or family member.  If you are still searching for help to battle the winter blues, come in to PROMATx Health Club and let one of our trainers banish the blahs!!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Kickstart Your Metabolism - Part 2

In my last blog, I talked about how to kickstart your metabolism by adding bursts of exercise or "interval" training.  Hopefully you have given this a try because it is a fantastic way to increase the calorie burn.  Let's switch gears and look at the nutrition-side of metabolism.

If you are like a lot people who are trying to lose weight, one of the first things you think of doing is cutting your calorie intake.  In other words, you restrict how much food you eat.  For the most part, that is a good first step.  Americans are chronic "over-eaters"...our plates are much larger than they were 20 years ago and portion sizes in restaurants border on ridiculous.  So starting with reducing the amount of food you eat is probably going to help bring the number on the scale down.  However, how much do you cut back?  Do you know where to start?  First place to start is to know exactly how much you eat.  Create a food journal and for one week, log down everything that goes in your mouth (both food and drink) and try to be somewhat accurate on portion sizes.  I'm not saying you have to get out a measuring cup and a food scale, but be realistic.  If you have pasta for dinner, approximate how many cups you have in your bowl.  Liquids are just as important because a lot of American's daily calories come from drinks (i.e., soda, energy drinks, etc.).

So you have your food what?  If you have access to a nutritional specialist (such as here at PROMATx Health Club), make an appointment to review your food journal.  If not, there are plenty of free websites that help to track calories.  Once you have an understanding of how many calories you eat in a day, now it's time to think about a reduction.  There is a science behind how many calories you need in a day to sustain life.  When you add physical activity to your daily routine, that number will increase.  Working with a nutritional specialist or on a reputable website, determine how many calories you should consume to meet the basic needs of life (breathing, moving, metabolism, etc.) and provide enough energy for your physical activity.  It's also based on your age and gender.  Once you find out how many calories you should be eating, look back to your food journal.  Remember a little bit of leg work goes a long way!  Don't let these steps deter you from losing weight!!

Lose weight the smart way.  It may have taken you years to put on the extra weight, so don't expect it to all come off in a short period of time.  Also, don't fall into the trap of severely restricting your food intake.  If you don't consume enough calories your body goes into "protective" mode and not only stores calories for later use but also begins to break down muscle tissue for energy.  Losing muscle equates to slower metabolism...slower metabolism equates to weight gain.  It's a vicious cycle.  Finally, don't skip meals.  Eat smaller, more frequent meals to keep your metabolism working constantly throughout the day.  Your body will thank you for this, especially if you are physically active.

Kickstart your metabolism by adding bursts of high intensity activity in your exercise routine.  Kickstart your metabolism by fueling your body with the nutrients it needs and craves.  Kickstart your metabolism by eating more often throughout the day.  Kickstart your metabolism so you can finally lose the weight and put your body on the road to recovery.

Need additional help?  Take time out of your day and come in to PROMATx Health Club.  Sit down with a fitness professional and nutrition specialist and learn what it will take for you to be successful.  What works for others may not work for you so develop a plan that is specific to your needs.  Get started today!!!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Kickstart Your Metabolism - Part 1

The dreaded "M" word...metabolism.  What is it?  In a nutshell, it is the total number of calories your body burns each day.  This includes daily body processes (which burn ~65% of those calories), such as breathing and circulation, and digestion (consumes another 10%).  That means the remaining 25% of calories burned comes from any and all physical activity...exercise AND anything done while awake!  Since only a small portion of calories you burn in a day actually comes from physical activity, it is very important to maximize the efficiency of this system.  In other words, you want to get the most bang for your buck!

If 25% of your calorie burn comes from physical activity, you are burning calories while you are moving the mouse around on your computer to scroll through this blog.  In order to maximize your metabolism during physical activity, it is wise to have a good lean mass-to-fat mass ratio...meaning lower body fat percentage.  Why?  Lots of reasons but mainly lean tissue (organs and muscles) burn an average of 14 calories per pound a day while fat only burns about 3 calories per pound.  That should be incentive enough to increase your lean mass!!  Now, I am not saying you have to become a body builder or become so large with muscles that you have to walk sideways through doors.  What I am talking about is to incorporate strength training into your daily exercise routine.  Body weight activities such as squats, lunges and push-ups are effective ways to increase lean tissue.  Weight training activities with machines, dumbbells, and barbells will also increase lean mass.  These are all great ways to improve the efficiency of your calorie-burning machine!  Not only will you be able to burn calories efficiently DURING exercise but also during rest and other daily tasks such as sitting and standing.

How can you kickstart your metabolism?  Obviously the first step is to fuel your body with proper nutrition and cut out all the crap (i.e., excess sugar, sodas, fried foods, etc.) then start adding exercise into your daily routine.  If you've already completed those steps, let's look at how you can improve your workouts to create the "afterburn".  This is where your metabolism stays high after a workout and you continue to burn more calories throughout the day.  This can be accomplished by adding bursts of high intensity moves within your workout.  Shorten the rest time between exercises and add in moves like jumping jacks, burpees, and mountain climbers.  If you are working on cardio, increase your speed and/or resistance (i.e., incline) for 30-60 second intervals.

Unfortunately, our metabolism slows down approximately 2 to 4 percent every decade as we lose muscle mass with aging.  So if you were burning around 2,000 calories in your twenties, you may drop down to burning around 1,880 calories twenty years later.   While it may not seem like a lot, if you are not exercising on a regular basis to maintain lean mass AND you are consuming the same amount of calories from food, it equates to weight gain!  It is possible to fight this through exercise and proper nutrition.  Try adding some high intensity activity to your workouts and begin that "afterburn"!!

Need help revving up your metabolism?  Stop in at PROMATx Health Club and talk with a trainer today.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Do You Really Know How to Breathe?

Once again, I haven't lost my mind.  I know everyone knows how to breathe but are you doing it correctly?  Many of us have become lazy with our breathing techniques and we are not utilizing the full capacity of our lungs.  This becomes extremely important during exercise.

During exercise the body's demand for oxygen increases and therefore we must increase our breathing to fulfill the body's need.  This is accomplished by coordinating surrounding muscles.  You can train these muscles just as you train your biceps and glutes.  Also, as you increase your fitness level, your heart adapts by pumping the same amount of blood with less force and less often (fewer heartbeats).  In the same manner, by training your respiratory (breathing) muscles, you have the ability to slow down your breathing and be more efficient with getting oxygen in your lungs and out to the working muscles.

Studies have shown how athletes who train their respiratory muscles have improved overall performance.  Would you like to improve your performance in the gym?  While you may (or may not) be a professional (or recreational) athlete, practicing proper breathing techniques is extremely important.  Just like any other muscle, if the respiratory muscles (diaphragm and intercostals) aren't exercised they will atrophy or get smaller.  As we grow older, we tend to have shallower breathing and thus using less of our lungs to breathe.  Unfortunately as this shallow breathing continues into later stages of life, it becomes more difficult to "re-train" our respiratory muscles for deep breathing.
If you have ever taken a yoga or pilates class you probably have heard how important the breath is during activity.  How many times have you tried to lift a heavy weight in the gym and have focused on your breathing to get you through the lift?  Proper breathing techniques not only allow you to take in oxygen and disperse it to working muscles, but also it helps to center your focus on the activity at hand.  Focused breathing also helps to maximize your energy intake while keeping your mind clear.

So how can you train your respiratory muscles?  The simple answer...breathe.  The extended answer...breathe to the full extent of your lungs, diaphragm, and intercostals.  Try this the next time you have a moment to think about your breathing. 
  • Inhale - 2 counts
  • Hold your breath - 2 counts
  • Exhale - 4 counts
This may feel awkward at first but keep working at it.  When you inhale, don't just take a breath from the shallow part of your lungs...breathe deeply from the belly.  Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly.  Take a normal breath.  Did the hand on your chest rise or did the hand on your belly rise?  Deep breathing should come from your belly.  Expand your ribcage to the side while you take a deep breath and allow your belly to rise.  Again, practice this because it will feel strange if you are used to shallow breathing.

Once you have become comfortable with this pattern of breathing, try adding it to your activity.  Replace the "counts" with steps, or pedal strokes, or swimming strokes.  After mastering that, try to increase your counts with the same ratio as above.  For example...inhale 4 counts, hold your breath 4 counts, and exhale 8 counts.

This type of breathing will soon become second nature and you will no longer have to think about how to breathe.  You will become more focused on the activity at hand, whether it's a sporting event, working out in the gym, or concentrating on a task at home.  Performance will improve as your mind lets go of the stress of what happened earlier in the day or problems you are having at work and your body focuses on the next breath.

"For breath is life, and if you breathe well you will live long on earth."
~ Sanskrit Proverb

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Exercise and GERD

GERD is not just me putting my fingers on the wrong keys on the keyboard...GERD is gastroesophageal reflux disease.  That's a mouthful so now you know why I typed GERD!  All kidding aside, if you suffer from heartburn and GERD you know that, depending on the severity of your symptoms, daily activities can be difficult.  If you have your symptoms under control, congratulations.  For those of you who still suffer daily, even with medication, can exercise help your symptoms?  Let's take a look.

First a little background on GERD.  Gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly referred to as GERD or acid reflux, is a condition in which the liquid content of the stomach regurgitates (backs up or refluxes) into the esophagus.  Unfortunately GERD can be a chronic condition and once it begins, it usually is life-long. If there is injury to the lining of the esophagus (esophagitis), this also is a chronic condition.  Once treatment for GERD is begun, therefore, it usually will need to be continued indefinitely although it is argued that in some patients with intermittent symptoms and no esophagitis, treatment can be intermittent and done only during symptomatic periods.  Treatment of GERD varies from person to person.  For some, dietary changes (i.e., avoiding foods that trigger GERD such as peppermint, alcohol, and caffeine) alone may suffice.  For others, prescription medication in combination with over-the-counter acid controllers are necessary.  In extreme cases, surgery may be necessary.

Now that we know a little about GERD let's look at how exercise fits into the picture.  Studies have shown positive effects on the symptoms of GERD when adding exercise to daily routines.  Keeping exercise durations lower (i.e., 30 minutes at a time) and impact levels lower (i.e., walking, cycling, etc.) has also helped reduce symptoms.  Just because you suffer from symptoms of GERD doesn't mean you cannot exercise.  You will probably need to work with a fitness professional to find the modes of exercise that work best for you.

So let's say you haven't been exercising and need to lose weight AND suffer from GERD.  Where do you begin?  Are you stuck in the scenario that you need to lose weight to get GERD under control but you have difficulty exercising because of GERD symptoms?  You are not alone.  Unfortunately it will be a tough road for you to follow but NOT IMPOSSIBLE!!!  First of all, check with your health care practitioner to make sure you are physically ready to start an exercise program.  Explain to him/her that you are suffering from GERD during exercise or physical exertion and find out if a change in medication or dosage is necessary.  Explore all options before beginning your exercise program.  Next, meet with a fitness professional for a one-on-one consultation and describe your health history including symptoms of GERD.  Together, you should be able to make a plan for the type of exercise and duration that will work best for your condition.

Don't be stuck in the vicious cycle of not losing the weight because your symptoms of GERD are too painful.  Take action and take control of your health.  While GERD may not be totally eliminated by losing excess weight, symptoms should be lessened and more manageable.  It may just take a little longer to get that ball rolling!

Still need help?  Stop in at PROMATx Health Club and talk with one of our trainers and nutrition specialists to learn more about GERD and how exercise can help you control your symptoms.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Is it Time to Fire Your Doctor??

The new year has begun and it's time to take stock in your health and wellness.  A good place to start is with your health care practitioner(s).  Are you happy with the care you are receiving?  Are you able to really talk with your doctor(s) about your concerns?  Your health is important to you and it should be just as important to your doctor.  While it may be convenient to stay with your doctor because of location or the fact that you have been with him/her for a number of years, there are also other factors to consider.  It may be difficult to part ways but here are some suggestions from Forbes magazine on when to call it quits.
  1. You have lost confidence in your doctor.
    • If you have doubts about his/her competence, it's definitely time to part ways.  Find someone with whom you can trust to consider your best interest when making medical decisions.
  2. Your doctor isn't on staff at a hospital.
    • Do you even know if your doctor has hospital privileges?  It's time to find out.  You need to know that in a medical crisis, you will have someone available to direct your care...someone who knows your medical history and someone you trust.
  3. Your doctor isn't board certified in his/her specialty/field.
    • This should be one of the first areas to investigate when selecting a new physician.  It's also wise to check with your state's medical licensing board to ensure he/she has a good record.  Also, board certification typically requires continuing education for recertification.  This way, your physician can remain "up-to-speed" on current procedures.
  4. Your doctor doesn't value your input.
    • Health care is a two-way street.  You should have input on all medical decisions and should have all of your questions answered during your appointment.  If you are left with the feeling of uncertainty, it's time to speak up.  If your physician isn't meeting your needs, it's time to fire him/her.  Remember, he/she works for you!!
  5. You are kept in the dark about your prescriptions.
    • Do you question "why" he/she is writing a prescription?  Do you know what the side effects are?  Do you know if there are any non-prescription alternatives?  Do you know if there are less expensive versions?  These questions should all be asked AND answered any time your doctor pulls out the prescription pad.
  6. Your doctor doesn't coordinate well with other physicians.
    • If you suffer from chronic illness that require different specialties, you probably are cared for by multiple physicians.  If your health insurance requires referrals before you can see a specialty-care physician, you must rely on your primary care physician.  He/she should be able to recommend other physicians with whom he/she trusts.  Also, your doctor shouldn't be offended if you ask for a second opinion.
  7. The office is disorganized.
    • Are your phone calls returned promptly?  Is paperwork completed and submitted to the insurance company correctly?  Do you feel like you are "lost in the shuffle" during office visits?  The office and medical staff in the office are just as important as the physician.  
  8. There are too many gatekeepers.
    • When was the last time you actually saw your physician during an office visit?  Do you feel like your primary care provider is the nurse practitioner or physician's assistant?  It's time to take a stand!!
  9. Your doctor is behind the times.
    • Is your physician "up" on the latest medical studies?  Does he/she provide you with research-based medicine?  If you suffer from a chronic illness, is he/she up-to-date on the guidelines for treatment of your illness?
  10. Your doctor doesn't offer the amenities you need.
    • These "amenities" will be different for everyone.  Maybe you need a better location or satellite office; perhaps you prefer to schedule appointments and make inquiries on-line rather than by phone.  Take into consideration your needs when choosing a physician.
Thanks to Forbes magazine, these are just a few ways to take stock in your health care.  don't stay with your doctor just because it's convenient.  It's your health and you should want as many people on your side as possible.  Get your questions answered and have two-way communication with all of your health care providers. Take action...get healthy!!

"Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died." 
~ Erma Bombeck