PFTL News January 2018

LIFESTYLE CHANGES CAN BOOST YOUR METABOLISM (ACE Healthy Living Dec. 2017)

Have you hit a plateau in your fitness journey? Do you feel like you can’t lose any more weight, no matter what you do? If so, don’t despair—you are not alone. Many people struggle to meet their fitness and weight-management goals.

In many cases, the root of the problem lies in not knowing enough about how the body works. It can be easy to focus only on external results rather than pay attention to the internal functioning of our own bodies. The human body is a fascinating creation and, if we understand our own physiology just a bit better, we have a better chance of being able to conquer these frustrating plateaus.

Having a good understanding of one’s own metabolism is a great place to start. The term metabolism simply refers to the chemical processes that occur within the body to maintain life. There are two categories: catabolism, which refers to the breaking down of organic matter to obtain energy; and anabolism, which refers to the building up of components of cells. These processes require energy, burn energy and produce energy, which significantly impacts each person’s fitness and weight-management outcomes.

Interestingly, each person’s metabolism is different in terms of speed and effectiveness. Your age, sex and genes can contribute to your metabolism, but lifestyle choices related to eating, physical activity and sleep also play significant roles. While you can’t change some of these factors, you can make better lifestyle choices, which will help increase the effectiveness of your metabolism, which will, in turn, help you achieve your health and fitness goals.

Here are some basic things to consider when preparing to make fitness and body weight changes:

  1. Know your basal metabolic rate (BMR).This is the amount of energy your body needs to keep functioning while at rest throughout the day. You can find a basic calculator hereto get a general idea of your BMR, but note that this is only an estimate based on factors like age and weight.
  2. Know your body composition.It is possible to weigh a “normal” weight and yet still have an unhealthy body-fat percentage. A body composition assessment can give you a better idea of your body-fat percentage and total muscle mass, and even a breakdown of visceral fat percentage. Some fitness facilities and medical offices offer this type of service. Devices are also available for home use, but tend to be somewhat less accurate.
  3. Know your daily total caloric intake, including the specific breakdown of major nutrients, such as fat, carbohydrates and protein.
  4. Keep a two-week journal of your actual exercise, eating, drinking and sleeping habits. This process can help identify the areas where you’re doing well and those that may present potential problems.

To use the metabolism factor to your advantage to reach your fitness goals, here are some basic tips to consider implementing:

  • Drink plenty of water. Dehydration may slow down your metabolism.
  • Eat regular meals. Having smaller meals or healthy snacks every three to four hours helps keep your metabolism burning calories throughout the day. Studies show that people who eat smaller meals regularly are less likely to overeat.
  • Build muscle. Even while at rest, your body burns calories. Every pound of muscle uses about six calories a day just to exist, whereas each pound of fat requires only two calories a day.
  • Be physically active. The more active you are throughout the day, the more energy your body burns.
  • Add some aerobic workouts with a higher intensity. This provides a steady and more long-lasting rise in resting metabolic rate.
  • Eat balanced meals. It is essential for overall health and better fitness to balance your meals and eat good, organic and nutritious food. In particular, include healthy proteins, such as tofu, nuts and beans, as your body burns more calories digesting protein than it does while digesting carbohydrates or fat.
  • Do NOT skip meals or lower your caloric intake to below 1,200 calories for women or 1,800 calories for men (these numbers are basic guidelines and may vary for each person). Skipping meals and fasting for long periods of times slows down your metabolism.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast. 
  • Sleep seven to eight hours per night.

Turning these tips into daily habits is a great way to give your metabolism a boost and enhance your ability to meet your health and fitness goals. You may also benefit from working with a personal trainer, who can design a specific exercise regimen that your body responds to positively. Regardless of where you are in your health and fitness journey, don’t despair—get up, get moving and give your metabolism the boost you need to start seeing result

DO BRAIN GAMES IMPROVE COGNITIVE FUNCTION? (from IDEA Fitness Journal December 2017)

Brain-training programs and games have blossomed into a competitive industry with direct consumer spending on digital brain-health software products expected to reach $1.52 billion by 2020. Companies such as Lumosity, Posit Science, Cogmed and CogniFit advertise the brain-boosting benefits of their software platforms.

But do these products really work? The scientific evidence is somewhat scattered, but several recent reports conclude that brain-training games do not reduce the risk of cognitive decline or dementia. They can significantly improve specific cognitive processes—but not much else.

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

PFTL News September 2017

FITNESS NEWS – ARE YOU BEING DUPED?  (from IDEA Fit Tips, Sept. 2017)

Health and fitness news on the internet can produce a minefield of misinformation. Anybody can open a social media account, build a polished website with DIY templates and set up shop as a self-appointed health and fitness expert. And people who do this can lend their work an air of authority by mimicking the design and presentation of authoritative health-news.

These so-called experts can publish anything they want — and they do. They’re not bound by a journalist’s professional standards—checking facts, using reliable evidence, providing balanced coverage—much less the demands of peer-reviewed research.

Even those who mean well can go astray online. Professional journalists, longtime bloggers and social media stars can bow to the pressure to publish quickly and consistently, leading to sloppy misinterpretations of the facts or irresponsible misinformation derived from little more than anecdote or opinion.

All this yields a flood of faulty health information online that has surged in the past few years. How can you separate the factual health information from the false? For starters, arm yourself with skills and strategies for confronting the fire hose of health and fitness content online.

Step 1: Exercise critical thinking. Ask questions and objectively analyze what you’re seeing, whether it’s a headline, video, news report, photo or Facebook rant. “The initial move of just asking the question ‘Do I trust this?’ is a really good first step,” says Joel Breakstone, PhD, director at the Stanford History Education Group.

Step 2: Question the source of the information. Asking basic questions is a powerful shift away from what people are often doing now, which is simply accepting information at face value,” says Breakstone. Thinking critically does not require an hour-long research project. Do a quick Google search, and surf around the website in question to get a sense of who’s behind it. Breakstone recommends looking beyond the website’s “About” page, though. “There are lots of sites that are seeking to obscure their identity,” he says, “so leave the site you are on, and quickly do a separate Google search to see what other people say about that website or that individual.”

On Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, look for a blue verified badge (which looks like a checkmark), confirming that an account—belonging to a media outlet, popular brand or public figure—has been deemed authentic by the social media channel itself. The badge doesn’t mean everything posted from that account is true or fact checked, but it does verify that the individuals/associations are who they say they are.

Step 3: Dig deeper. Double-check when articles and studies were first published. People sometimes post what they think is breaking news on social media when in fact the item is many months or years old.

After all that, be ready to investigate further. Yoni Freedhoff, MD, assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa and medical director at the Bariatric Institute, suggests asking these questions to uncover who is promoting the information and why: “Do they have a vested interest, especially if monetary, in a particular outcome or message? Do they have the appropriate background to have evaluated the claims they’re making—meaning, is there confidence they’ve actually read and understood the claim’s source?”

Evaluate Credibility Online – Once you understand the information’s source, it’s time to figure out what the news is trying to convey (and why). Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA, IDEA author, former faculty member at University of California, Santa Barbara, and co-owner of a blog for baby boomers called funandfit.org, reminds us to consider whether new information validates or refutes our knowledge base. “If it goes against accepted practice or seems too good to be true, or if I simply want the info to be right [because] I agree with it, then I need to trace the links to the primary or original source,” she says.

ACTIVE SENIORS ENJOY LIFE MORE

Good news for older adults: part of the prescription for a healthier, better retirement is exercise. Physical activity protects against declining health and fitness and adds years to your life. Look at your retirement or senior years as an opportunity to do things you have never done before. Most of all, enjoy yourself!

The Best Retirement Is an Active One – Did you know that moderate-intensity physical activity can help you live longer and reduce health problems? Regular exercise helps control blood pressure, body weight and cholesterol levels, and cuts the risk for hardening of the arteries, heart attack and stroke. It conditions muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones to help fight osteoporosis, keep your body more limber and stabilize your joints, thus lowering the risk of everyday injury. It also improves digestion and is good for managing low-back pain, arthritis and diabetes. Regular physical activity helps you maintain your independence. And recently, there’s been more research that suggests an active lifestyle lowers the risk of some cancers. But perhaps the best reason for incorporating regular exercise into your life is that you’ll feel better. Exercise helps you sleep better and manage stress better, and gives you more energy to enjoy work and play.

PFTL News JUNE 2017

NEW WALKING CLINIC STARTS JUNE 5

This will be the third year that PFTL will offer a free walking clinic to our clients and the public.  We will meet Mondays and Thursdays, from 5:30-6:30pm, at the Wallace Bowl in Gillson Park, Wilmette.  Includes warm-up, stretching, intervals, stair climbing, core strengthening and a great way to get some extra exercise.  Contact Julie at 847-251-6834 or Julie@pftl.net for more information.

5 FOODS TO SKIP IF YOU WANT TO STAY SLIM  (from ACE Fit Life May 2017)

More than 20,000 new food and drink items hit our grocery store shelves each year and, with so much conflicting information about health and nutrition floating around, it can be challenging to know what you should and should not be putting in your body. Here are five foods with unwarranted health halos that aren’t doing your body any favors, especially if you’re trying to reduce or your maintain your weight.

Fruit Juice – skip the juice. Eat your fruit—don’t drink it. Juice adds calories in a concentrated form without any of the fiber found in real fruit, which is one of the best reasons to eat fruit. When you juice fruitand discard the pulp or don’t include the peel, you’re getting rid half or more of the fiber.

Granola Bars – Granola bars aren’t so good for your waistline.  If it looks like a cookie and it tastes like a cookie…it’s a cookie. At its core, granola is just a grain with added sugar and fat. Package it up in bar form and it gets even less healthy. Most commercial granola bars are made with refined grains and contain added sweeteners and fat, and they rarely feature whole grains, fiber or protein, which should be key components of a better-for-you bar. You can find great recipes for homemade granola bars that are full of fiber and flavor.

Flavored Yogurt – flavored yogurts is bad for your waistline. If you can tolerate dairy, there is nothing wrong with plain yogurt. Unfortunately, not all yogurts are created equal, and most are packed with added sugar. Fruited and flavored yogurts are the worst, as they pretend to feature fruit. If they actually did include real fruit, it would also contain fiber, which yogurt products don’t. If you like fruited yogurt, make it yourself by adding real fruit to real yogurt and leave the flavored stuff on the shelf.

Veggie Chips – veggie chips aren’t a healthy food.  Veggie chip bags show pretty pictures of real vegetables, but the ingredient list tells a different story. Most vegetable chips are a variety of fried and salted versions of potato starch. While a potato is technically a vegetable, when you fry and salt it, you negate its nutritional value. In other words, veggie chips are glorified potato chips. You want real veggie chips? Cut up vegetables, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with a modest amount of salt and bake them.

Pretzels – pretzels aren’t good for staying slim.  Somewhere in the fat-free frenzy of the 1990s, people got the notion that pretzels were a health food. Sure, they have no fat, but neither does white bread. And pretzels are just white bread with a little more crunch and salt. What about whole-grain pretzels, you say? You’d be hard-pressed to find a pretzel in which the first ingredient is actually a whole grain.  If you want a satiating snack, choose nuts over pretzels. Nuts contain fat, fiber and protein, and are a much more satiating snack.

WHY GOOD POSTURE MATTERS  (excerpted from IDEA Fitness Journal 2017)

Posture—or structural alignment—is a key element in any exerciser’s program. Our personal trainers constantly remind clients to maintain good alignment in order to minimize stress on tendons, joints and ligaments while exercising.  And clients do a good job of perfecting form under scrutiny—but as soon as their training sessions end, posture sometimes falls apart.

Most of us know and try to do other healthy behaviors—like getting enough sleep, eating vegetables and drinking water—we also need to think about our in everyday situations.

Why is this important?  –  Most people do not realize that good posture/alignment can improve their jobs, verbal communication, self‐confidence, mood or even bedroom relations.

Here are several ways posture can have a huge impact on quality of life.

Mood Booster or Buster – Just looking at somebody’s alignment gives a clue on how the person is feeling. For example, someone whose head is drooped could be feeling sad or depressed. In effect, mood dictates the alignment. But researchers have shown the reverse is true as well: Alignment can dictate mood.  A slouched posture has been shown to induce higher stress, feelings of helplessness, and the impression of depression on those viewing the slouched posture.  Good posture promotes a feeling of being in control.

Energy Drain – Researchers from San Francisco State University and Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan hypothesized that structural alignment could cause feelings of energy depletion. They found that students who were asked to walk in a slouched position reported a drop in energy levels,  and a subsequent increase in energy when asked to skip upright.

Success Builder – Several years ago, Harvard Business School social psychologist Amy Cuddy, PhD, gave a TED Talk in which she popularized the concept of the “power pose.” Her presentation encourages people to hold a “posture of confidence” for 1–2 minutes before an important social interaction—even when they lack confidence. Cuddy says such a pose can influence testosterone and cortisone levels and may enhance a person’s success potential. She believes a powerful pose elicits perceptions of success and strength, while a meek one has the opposite effect.  Practicing a power pose before a job interview, for example, boosts a person’s odds of getting hired, according to her research.

Breath Booster – Posture has a big impact on breathing capacity, and it’s easy to prove it. Try this,  maintain an upright position and then inhale as fully as possible. Then, go into a hunched‐over position and inhale again. It will become obvious that poor alignment limits oxygen intake.

Confidence Builder – We’ve already discussed how a strong, confident posture can affect how others see us, but can it alter how we see ourselves? Researchers from Ohio State University and the Autonomous University of Madrid believe it can. To test their theory, they asked 71 students to write down their best and worst attributes while in a slumped or an upright position. The students then completed other tests requiring postural changes and self‐evaluations. For example, participants rated themselves on their work experience and qualifications in a job‐seeker scenario. Almost always, the slouched subjects rated themselves lower and expressed less confidence than the upright ones.

Words of Wisdom: Food is the most abused anxiety drug.  Exercise is the most underutilized antidepressant.

PFTL News April 2016

HAPPY SPRINGTIME!!

IS ALL SUGAR THE SAME?

We’ve probably all heard that sugar is “bad for us”.  Sugar has been shown to increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. cutting back on sugar may lead to tons of benefits for your body, including lower blood pressure, reduced risk of cancer, a sharper brain, clearer skin, and fewer cravings.  So, we try to avoid added sugar in candy and other products, but does this mean you should avoid fruits which are naturally high in sugar?

There’s not a big difference in the way your body treats sugar found naturally in fruit and sugar added to candy and cookies, at least from a chemical standpoint, says Rania Batayneh, M.P.H, nutritionist and author of The One One One Diet. “Both of these sugars are ultimately broken down into fructose and glucose, which are metabolized the same once they reach your gut,” she says.

What does differ: how fast they’re broken down. “Because the sugar in fruits is paired with fiber and water, it’s released much more slowly into your body, providing you with a consistent stream of energy,” Batayneh says. “Added sugar, without fiber and water, is broken down immediately, leading to a surge in insulin and blood sugar levels. As a result, you don’t feel full at all—you just crave more sugar.”

One way to monitor naturally-occurring sugars is the idea of using glycemic index (GI).  This is a ranking of foods based on how much it raises our blood sugar levels.   GI can help to determine appropriate amounts of natural sugars. Bananas and watermelon provide a good example of a way to bring GI into your decision-making. The medium banana contains 14 grams of naturally occurring sugar. But partly because of its good fiber content (3 grams), it qualifies as a low GI fruit. By contrast, one cup of watermelon contains less naturally occurring sugar (9-10 grams); yet, partly because of its much lower fiber content (about 1/2 gram), it has a medium GI value and for that reason can be challenging to our blood sugar level.  So, even though the banana is higher in sugar, it is less likely to raise our blood sugar because of the fiber content; thus the banana is the better choice.

Bottomline:  Eating fruit in moderation is fine for most people; however, the more fiber and the lower the GI, the better will be the fruit choice.

FITNESS HUMOR: “I do 5 sit-ups every monring.  It doesn’t sound like much, but there are only so many times you can hit the snooze button.”

DON’T STOP RESISTANCE TRAINNG IF YOU WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT (PART TWO)

Last month the first part of this article explained the benefits of resistance training for weight loss and health.  Part Two further explains the reasons why resistance training is important.

Why aerobic exercise is not enough – But,” the question goes, “Can’t I just go for a run and build muscle?  I’m using muscles when I run!

The answer is NO!  Running or other aerobic exercise is not a replacement for resistance training.  They are different exercises and provide different benefits.  Aerobic exercise does not deliver the needed stress to your bones, muscles and tendons.

In order to build strength, you have to pull hard on tendons, do microscopic damage to your muscles and literally bend your bones.  Going out for a run or putting in an hour on the treadmill will not do this sufficiently.

This is not to say that aerobic exercise is not important:  it is!  But it is not resistance training.  You need both.  And if you omit one, you do your body a great disservice.

Avoid the “skinny fat” syndrome – Another danger of focusing on cardio or aerobic exercise to the exclusion of resistance training is becoming what is known as “skinny fat.”  Skinny fat is a condition in which a person appears thin on the outside, but inside they are unhealthy and at risk for illness.

If you are losing weight through diet and exercise but not simultaneously doing resistance training, you are not only losing fat:  you are losing muscle as well.  Your body will burn through your muscles tissue as surely as it will burn through your fat.  As you lose muscle, you lose a major source of energy, and you lose tone and definition.

Further, as you lose muscle, your bones become weak, because they do not have to do as much work. Weak bones are a precursor to osteoporosis.

Hidden fat is also a risk for the “skinny fat” person.  When 800 slim people underwent an MRI scan to check for visceral or hidden fat, 45% were found to have excessive amounts of internal fat, undetectable from the outside1.  Visceral fat is the most dangerous fat to have, because it accumulates around organs such as the pancreas, heart and liver and then begins releasing hormones and other secretions that lead to disease.

Resistance training can reduce visceral fat and help prevent the additional formation around the organs.

Don’t give up your resistance training just because spring is here and you are eager to get outside.  There is no substitute for lifting heavy weights 2 to 3 times each week. Your health is on the line.

PFTL News February 2016

NEW CLASS OFFERING

Basic Full-Body Tune-Up” – 60-minute – 6-weeks – Starts Wednesday, March 2 from 4pm-5pm.

Taught by personal trainer, Linda Meyer, CPT, this group class (min. 4; max. 5 participants)  focuses on flexibility, stability, strength, balance and endurance. It is designed as a full body workout with the aim of helping each person improve their overall fitness level.

Beginner level of fitness: this is a perfect class for motivated individuals who currently lack the strength, balance and flexibility they once had, and want to regain these qualities.

The cost for this 6-week class is $99 per participant.  Call or email Julie Cohen, 847-251-6834 or Julie@pftl.net .

WHAT MOTIVATES YOU?

Brace yourself.  According to Rod K. Dishman, Ph.D., director of the Behavioral Fitness Laboratory at the University of Georgia, nearly 50 percent of people who begin an exercise program drop out within the first 6 months.  The question is, “Why?”  What is it about sticking with a fitness routine that causes so many people abandon it?

The answer?  Motivation.  They don’t want health and fitness badly enough.  It is a simple fact of human psychology that if we want something badly enough, we’ll do everything we can to get it.  Your challenge is to find out what motivates you to get serious about fitness and stick with it.

You do not have to be part of that 50 percent who quit.  You can stay committed and finish strong.  It is all about finding what motivates you personally.  Here are some possible motivators for you.

  1. Do it for your health. Consistent exercise and healthy eating are the two very best things you can do for your health. You will develop a strong, healthy heart, reduce your chances of many cancers, prevent diabetes, keep a sharp mind and resist dementia and avoid many of the common ailments that come with aging.  It is possible to age without decay, and the key to this is exercise and eating well.
  2. Do it to look better. Appearance isn’t everything, but most of us care how we look. A strong and healthy person just looks good.  And it isn’t all physical.  Your demeanor will change as you develop the confidence that comes from the discipline of fitness.  You will appear more energetic and confident because you will be more energetic and confident!
  3. Do it to relieve stress. Really!  It isn’t a cliché.  Exercising really does cause physical changes in your brain and nervous system that results in feelings of calmness and well-being.  In fact, you may get so hooked on the mental benefits of exercise that you will crave it!
  4. Do it to be strong. If you have never done focused weight training, then you literally have no idea of the total transformation that you will feel after just a few weeks.  There is nothing like bending over to pick something up that normally results in discomfort, strain and even pain, only to find out that it is a piece of cake!  And by getting strong now, you reduce your risk of age-related falls and fractures because you have the core strength and balance to keep yourself stable.

WHAT ARE YOU AIMING AT?

Zig Ziglar once said, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” And each of us knows from our own experience that he is right.  The general flow of human life tends to be toward ease and comfort.  One day flows into the next, and many of us never quite get around to turning our good intentions into reality.

Those ‘good intentions,’ while no doubt admirable, tend to remain unrealized mainly because they are too vague.  Vague ideas are impossible to focus on and aim for; they are moving targets.

Do you have moving targets in your life?  Perhaps you want to eat a more healthy diet or lose the winter weight that has crept upon you.  Maybe you just want to establish a regular workout routine and stick with it this time.

The keys to your success are two-fold:  steady the target and create momentum. 

You Can’t Hit a Moving Target – Without setting specific goals, your good intentions are exactly like a moving target.  You would like to lose some weight, feel a little better, make a change in your diet–but without clearly defined goals and methods, you can’t focus and make it happen.

The way to steady the target so you can finally hit the bull’s eye is to define your goals and write them down:

  • How much weight do you want to lose?
  • What kind of changes do you want to make in your diet?
  • How many days per week do you want to exercise?
  • Which article of clothing do you wish would fit your body again?
  • How much weight would you like to lift while strength training?

Once you know where you want to end up, you are much more likely to get there. But you have to start moving toward your goals.  That is where momentum comes in.

Create momentum to reach your goals – Sometimes, the hardest part of reaching a goal is just getting started.  That first day of doing things differently or the first experience of bypassing an unhealthy treat in favor of a food that will give you more energy can be daunting.  It isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t fun.

So how do you get that momentum?  How do you start moving?  Accountability is the answer.  Having someone else involved in your efforts can be the most important factor in your success.

It is hard to change lifelong habits on your own.  You need radical motivation that comes from involving others in your efforts.  Setting deadlines, making commitments and entering contests all provide an external motivation that will carry you through even the toughest temptations. And once you get started, you will find that the momentum principle kicks in and it becomes easier and easier to keep going.

Start NOWYou can make that moving target come to a screeching halt and blast the bull’s eye right out of it by taking a few minutes to write down what you want.  Don’t make it your goals too broad; be specific.  And then begin brainstorming ways to get others involved with you; that will provide your momentum.  Success is within your reach.  You can do this!

Oh, and remember, our trainers are here to help you the entire way!