Friday, November 27, 2015

Improve Your Mood... Move It!

Everyone has those days where you feel like you are one with your mattress. Finding the energy and motivation to get up and get going for the day can be hard. Did you know that exercise can actually help lift your spirits, help you get more sleep, and have more energy? 

You just have to get up and go!

Exercise has a multitude of benefits for your physical health but many don’t realize that exercise is an excellent tool to improve your cognitive and mental health. This is important for people of all ages. “One study examined over 10,000 Harvard University alumni over the course of over 20 years and found that rates of depression over time were linked to the amount of physical activity that these alumni reported. Likewise, in a study of adolescents, 16% of those who were not physically active developed an anxiety disorder over a 4-year period, compared to half that rate among those whose who exercised regularly (Otto & Smits, 2011).”

In addition to exercise improving mood, exercise can improve the overall quality of sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recently found that regular exercise can improve sleep quality by up to 65%. There are also benefits to less leg cramps and increased concentration during the day just by exercising regularly (National Sleep Foundation, 2015). “Our findings demonstrate a link between regular physical activity and perceptions of sleepiness during the day, which suggests that participation in physical activity on a regular basis may positively influence an individual’s productivity at work, or in the case of a student, influence their ability to pay attention in class (National Sleep Foundation, 2015).” These findings are based off of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Guidelines for Physical Activity. Too much exercise can have the reverse effect so don’t over train!

What does all this mean? 

Essentially, by exercising you can be in a better mood, feel more awake, and sleep better at night. This is in addition to improving your physical health as well. Make sure you keep moving- your body and your mind will thank you!

Blog post by Nikki Courtney.

National Sleep Foundation. (2015). Study: Physical activity impacts overall quality of sleep. Retrieved from

Otto, M., & Smits, J. (2011). Exercise for mood and anxiety proven strategies for overcoming depression and enhancing well-being. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Pound is a Pound

The human body is an amazing thing. Physiologically, there are so many things that happen in unison that keep us alive. Muscles, bones, and fat are three major components of the body. We need all three to survive, including fat. Having too much or too little of any of these things can lead to a multitude of health issues. So how can you find out how much you have?

First, let's look at body composition. Body composition is essentially how much muscle, bone, fat, and water compose the body. For body composition, it is more of a comparison of fat free mass, or lean mass, to fat mass. Everyone's body composition is different. For example, women tend to have a higher percent of fat than men of the same age for a number of reasons (i.e. childbearing, hormone regulation). As you age, body composition changes as well (i.e. muscle atrophy).

Body mass is different from body composition. Instead of looking at lean mass vs fat mass, it is more of a ratio. Body mass index (BMI) is a comparison of total body weight to height; it does not look at the composition of the body but the sum of all its components. Many healthcare professionals and fitness experts use BMI to find a correlation for body fat. This height to weight ratio gives an estimate for percent body fat. Once found, it can be compared to a chart which takes into consideration your age and gender to see if it is a “healthy” percent. This can be a great tool for much of the general population. But because BMI isn't considering how much of the total body weight is fat and how much is muscle, etc., it is not always reliable. Take a professional body builder, for example: lots of muscle, very little body fat. According to their BMI, they can sometimes fall under the “obese” category simply because of their height to weight ratio.

One common misconception I’ve heard is that muscle weighs more than fat. This isn’t entirely true; a pound is a pound no matter what. What this is referring to is actually the difference in density. Muscle is more dense than fat is. Simply put, a pound of muscle takes up less space in the body than a pound of fat does. This is important to understand when you look at total body weight.

When you get on a scale, it tells you a total body weight. If you are eating correctly and exercising to lose weight, try not to rely on the numbers on the scale for progress. You could be losing body fat and gaining muscle but weigh exactly the same. Take a look at yourself in the mirror- how are your clothes fitting? How are you feeling? These are better for determining progress than a number on the scale. This can happen in reverse too; you can lose muscle and gain fat, essentially weighing the same but physically look “bigger.”

If you are interested in finding out your body composition, contact your doctor or a facility that conducts body composition testing. Remember, if you feel better, that is the most important thing! Don’t compare your progress to anyone else or a quantitative number because it isn’t always reliable.

Blog post by Nikki Courtney.

Monday, November 2, 2015

5 Tips to Help You Stay Motivated

Some people dread the word ‘exercise.’ Thinking about purposefully going to the gym can be very intimidating. Too often people will find every excuse in the book not to go to the gym. “I’m too tired,” “I don’t have enough time,” or my personal favorite “I don’t want to get sweaty.”

Motivation is hard to come by, but figuring out what motivates you is the key to getting moving. There are two major types of motivation- intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsically motivated individuals can find it within themselves to go get stuff done. The drive and need to workout is very self propelling. Extrinsic motivation is an outside source helping to push you in the right direction. This could be as simple as having a trainer encourage and push you or having a reward to work towards. To be the most successful, try to find motivation in both.

Make a plan

Having a plan of action helps keep you on track. This is the same idea as going grocery shopping. Most people will make a shopping list and go to the store and buy what they need. Going into the grocery store with no list usually means missing some items and buying impulse foods. Make sure you have a plan. How many days a week do you want to workout? For how long? Are you going to the gym, a fitness class, going for a run, swimming, dancing? Plan it out and stick to it!

Have an end goal

What’s the point of making a plan if its not working towards something? This could be as simple as “if I run 3 miles today, I’ll allow myself a treat tonight” to “I want to lose 10lbs for a special event in 3 months.” Making a plan is much easier when you know what you’re working towards.

Tell people about your plans and your goals

The more people that know what you’re working towards, less you will get off track. Talk to your family and friends. Share your goals and achievements with them. It will be more rewarding and you will have to be more accountable.

Learn time management skills

Make exercise and physical activity apart of your day, not something that you will get to if you have time. After a while exercise should feel like a part of your routine and you will feel strange not doing it.

Make it fun

The steps in your plan and your end goal should be realistic. If you have never run before and you want to train for a marathon, don’t start 4 weeks before. It will not be fun that way. Remember, you are doing this for yourself. Really sit down and figure out what makes you happy and what you enjoy doing. If the activities are fun, then it's one more reason to do it! The goal is yours, the reward is yours, so make sure you enjoy yourself!

Blog post by Nikki Courtney.