Consistent Exercise: The Key to Lifelong Health

Many physical problems that we associate with getting older are actually the result of inactivity. Physical fitness is important at every age, but for people over 50, it is crucial to a longer and healthier life-- and true fitness can only be developed through consistent daily exercise. Too often, people launch into random, one-time exertions and hope that these efforts will counteract an otherwise sedentary life. In fact, consistency is necessary in order to reap the benefits of exercise.

Your body learns to absorb more oxygen

When physicians evaluate the level of a patient's physical fitness, one important metric they look at is the maximum oxygen uptake. This is a number that shows the greatest amount of oxygen that your body can absorb during intense exercise, and it serves to indicate the overall level of your body's cardiac health. A few exercise sessions now and then cannot increase this number, while steady daily activity has been shown to keep it at a healthy level.

Consistency matters more than intensity

The American Heart Association profiles a health study in which the fitness levels of runners and walkers were compared. People who walked at least 30 minutes each day were found to have blood pressure and cardiac health equivalent to the athletic runners. The U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion states that the total number of minutes of physical activity in a week is more important than the intensity or duration of any one session.

Why older people benefit the most from regular exercise

The natural aging process causes older people to be more vulnerable to chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and arthritis. A regular exercise routine can delay and even reverse the progression of these chronic health issues, and the NIH states, "Even moderate exercise and physical activity can improve the health of people who are frail or who have diseases that accompany aging." There are several reasons for these beneficial effects:

          Retaining muscle mass: Once people are over 30, they begin to lose muscle mass, and studies show that regular exercise is the most effective way to reduce this chronological loss.

          Hormone production: Regular exercise stimulates the body's production of hormones that aid in building new muscle cells, while improving the vitality of existing ones.

          Bone density: Osteoporosis is a common and disabling disease associated with aging. Regular exercise and strength training stimulates the production of new bone cells.

          Depression relief: Regular exercise alleviates depression, and this has important outcomes for better life and longer health. Seven million Americans over the age of 65 suffer depression, and studies show that mortality rates are higher among those people are consistently higher.

As bodies age, the positive effects of daily exercise and physical movement increases. Physical fitness is a great habit to develop when you're young, but when you're older, remaining active on a regular basis becomes an essential foundation for continuing a healthy life. 



Cognitive Distortions: Limiting our exercise potential

Today's blog focuses heavily on the mental aspect of what is getting in the way of our goals. Admittedly, it's probably the least favorable area we like to spend time working on. It takes work to change our thoughts and it takes courage to face the way we have allowed our thought to dictate the way we treat ourselves. Specifically, I’m talking about negative thoughts such as judgments and distortions that help keep us small. Psychologists refer to these thoughts as cognitive distortions. These inaccurate thoughts falsely represent reality and convince you that a situation is out of your control. What’s even worse, cognitive distortions can become automatic thus preventing you from experience the large breathe of emotions and actions available to the human being.


Cognitive psychologist, David Burns, author of Feeling Good lists 10 variations of cognitive distortions. While a google search will easily present over 50 distortions, 10 is a good place to start. These popular ones include:  all or nothing thinking, overgeneralization, mental filter, disqualifying the positive, jumping to conclusions, magnification and minimization, emotional reasoning, labeling and mislabeling, and personalization.    You can read more about each distortion and additional ones here and here.

What thoughts in the last week or month have preventing you from achieving your goals? Are you an all or nothing kind of gal/guy (I already had a Vanilla latter, there goes my whole day)? Do you magnify or minimize a situation to serve your immediate gratification (It’s just one cookie)? Have you personalized comments said by friends or family and questions just exactly what they meant by it (example)

Let’s take a look at an example of some thoughts from a client:

What’s the point of working out? The scale hasn’t changed in 2 months and I’ll never be skinny.  I’m so frustrated and yet I hardly eating anything.

The personal trainer in me wants to provide possible explanations in response to my client’s frustration. For example, I may suggest doing measurements to see if she is getting slimmer and the scale reflects an exchange of fat for muscle rather than an indefinite change.  Or I could suggest writing her food down for us to review because if she really is eating nothing, then her body could be in starvation mode which prevents weight loss.  While my responses provide knowledge, the real issue is calling attention to how these thoughts have affected her motivation and commitment.

Here are some helpful tips for addressing cognitive distortions.

1.     Notice them when they happen. Keep a journal of the thoughts you think around food and exercise.

2.     Ask yourself if these thoughts are completely true (both in reality and on a rational level).

3.     If not, identify which distortions you’re experiencing. People tend to have a few dominant ones.

4.     Rewrite the thought.  

We’ll talk more about cognitive distortions and negative self talk in later post. If you’d like more practice with cognitive distortions, I recommend reading Feeling Good.  There are a few exercises that allow you become familiar with recognizing these thoughts. 



Tax-free Training

Tax-Free Training


By opening a Flexible Savings Plan (FSA) or Health Savings Plan (HSP), you might be able to deduct your training and nutritional services from your gross income. Here are the steps below:


1. Determine your account. Do you want a Health Savings Plan (HSP) or a Flexible Spending Account (FSA)? You, personally set up an HAS; whereas, your employer sets up the FSA on your behalf and contributes. For an HSA you must be enrolled in a high deductible health plan (see #2).  At the end of the year the HSA will roll over for future medical cost.


Both accounts are considered pre-tax so the account is essential a medical- IRA.


Pros of an HSP: higher limit for yearly contribution ($3300 v. $2500); un-used money rolls over into the next year.


Pro of a FSA: Your company makes the contributions; however at the end of the year the company will reabsorb any money left over. Your company, not you sets up the account, thus saving your time and research.


2.Qualify. Qualifying for a HSP requires a high deductible health insurance plan. High deductible is defined as $1500/year for singles and $2500/year for families. Your company has to participate in an FSA.


If you do qualify for a HSP, you’ll have to set one up with a bank. Some banks may require a montlhly deposit into the account. Research your options before opening your account to make sure it’s worth your while.


3. Contribute. Individual contributions for an HAS 3,330/year; family limit is $6550. If you are over 55, you can contribute an additional $1000/year. A FSA is limited to $2500 per year.


4. Consult.  It's best if your doctor verifies the reason you require personal training. Obesity is a qualified medical service. Here is a list of the IRS qualifying medical and dental expenses for 2013.


5. Fill out a 1099. To write off your personal training taxes, fill out a 1099 form with your trainers social security information. If you train at a gym, hang on to your receipts and expense them when you file. 



Inflammatory foods

Everyone has some knowledge of the fact that a lot of our lifestyle choices can determine our risk of heart disease and some cancers. Some of the food we choose to eat every day could be doing us more harm than good. Some of the foods that we know are contributors of inflammatory disease are:


  • Sugars: This includes sweetened drinks like soft drinks and fruit drinks. Other things that are loaded in sugar include goodies like candy, pastries and other gooey desserts.
  • Trans Fats: These are located in deep fried foods and fast foods. Many commercially prepared foods (such as ready to eat snacks and meals) contains trans fats as well.  
  • Dairy Products: Items like milk, butter, cheese and other dairy products contain partially hydrogenated oil. Everyday foods like cookies, crackers, cakes, and boxed cereals can also have hidden dairy content.
  • Processed Meats: Any meat that has been highly salted, smoked, cured, or chemically preserved fits in this category. Lean cuts of meat and grass-fed types are preferred. 
  • Alcohol: High alcohol consumption contributes to diseases of the liver, larynx and the esophagus. Almost any alcohol is included in this group including beers and wine and other liquor.


Inflammation is the human body's response and reaction to injury and infection. This action acts is a defense mechanism that sends nutrients to the areas that need them the most. When you have a cut or infection your body tries to take care of that condition with white blood cells and other responses that will kill the bacteria and start the healing process. The blood flow increase makes our bodies create redness, warmth, swelling and pain. All of these are signs you would think of with "inflammation." The causes of chronic inflammation can include conditions such as being overweight or having a lot of stress.

It is not yet 100 percent proven that inflammation can cause cardiovascular disease, but inflammation is commonly found in patients with heart disease and also contributes to several other conditions. One good piece of news is that some cholesterol-lowering medications show that they help with the reduction of arterial inflammation. 

In order to limit inflammation in our bodies, it is important follow a few tips: exercise regularly, eat fresh and healthy foods whenever possible, and refrain from smoking. Although those suffering from inflammation might not feel well enough to exercise and practice healthy choices, the decision to do so can be vital to their overall health.



Probiotics- What They Do for Your Health, Performance and Body Composition

Most adults have probably heard of probiotics, even if all their knowledge is from Activia commercials. Probiotics replenish stores of beneficial bacteria depleted by antibiotics or missing from lack of eating a balanced diet -- a critical element of digestive health.

Yogurt may be the best-known source of probiotics, but fermented foods including sauerkraut, certain pickles and cheeses, buttermilk, soy sauce, miso, and wine are excellent sources of these gut-health-enhancing bacteria too.

Probiotics vs. Prebiotics

Don’t confuse probiotics with prebiotics. While probiotics help keep us healthy, prebiotics help keep those friendly bacteria in the probiotics healthy. Prebiotics are compounds such as polyols and inulin that you ingest, but don’t digest. Instead, the good bacteria gobble them up. 

When you consume prebiotic-rich foods like artichokes, bananas, beans, garlic and oats, you aren’t just feeding your body -- you’re also feeding your body’s beneficial bacteria. Prebiotics are the yen to probiotics’ yang; both are essential for optimal digestive health.

Probiotics and Health

Thanks to Jamie Lee Curtis and those Activia commercials, most folks know that probiotics combat bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and overall abdominal malaise. Probiotics also help crowd out harmful bacteria, because there's limited surface area for bacteria in your intestines. If you load your body with good bacteria, there’s less space for harmful bacteria to stake claim.

Optimizing digestion is just one benefit of probiotics. Studies indicate that probiotics may reduce ailments like high blood pressurelung diseasetooth decay. They may even give your memory a boost. They also regulate vaginal bacterial, combating yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis -- ailments that especially plague pregnant women. Speaking of pregnancy, studies show that pregnant women who consume probiotics give birth to babies with lowered incidence of allergies.

Probiotics and Performance

Can probiotics improve your athletic prowess? The answer may be yes. One Iranian study tracked how eating probiotic-rich yogurt affected competitive female swimmers after a 400-meter freestyle swim. Researchers concluded that swimmers who consumed probiotics suffered fewer respiratory infections and less shortness of breath. As a result, their VO2max improved. 

A systematic review published by the American College of Sports Medicine concluded that probiotics also accelerate fatigued athletes’ immune systems, helping them recover more quickly.

Probiotics and Body Composition

Want to lose belly fat? Grab a fermented treat and dig in. So suggests a study published in the British Journal of Nutrition. Researchers studied 210 people who consumed varying degrees of a specific probiotic strain. Subjects who consumed the most probiotics lost the most fat: 3 percent of belly fat in 12 weeks (compared to 1 percent for people who consumed fewer probiotics).

There’s no need to sweat too much about exactly how probiotics are beneficial; just know that they're good for you, and that you should consume them through your food or supplements. If you choose supplements, make sure to research the brand so you know you’re getting a quality product.