Category: Article

The Dreaded Plateau

Anyone who’s ever worked toward a fitness goal, be it losing weight, building muscle or setting a new weight-lifting personal record, is familiar with this frustrating “stop” on the fitness journey.

So what exactly is a plateau? Simply put, a plateau is when your body stops responding to your diet or exercise routine. It’s very common, and it’s a sign that your body has adapted to the program you are following, which signals that it’s time to adjust or modify that program. Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do to break through a plateau and start making progress again.

If you hit a weight-loss plateau after losing several pounds, one of the first things to look at is your daily caloric intake. When you lose weight, your BMR (the energy your body expends to keep it functioning when you are at rest) decreases, therefore you need fewer calories. If you do not adjust your caloric intake, your weight loss will cease. To break the plateau and get your weight loss started again, reduce your caloric intake by modifying your diet.

Keep in mind, you should talk with your physician before reducing your diet to under 1,200 calories per day.

Another way to adjust your caloric intake is by increasing your caloric burn through exercise, for example, try adding a cardio session into your routine. A professional, such as a registered dietician, can provide you with a specific eating plan and guidelines to help you adjust your daily intake and break the plateau.  Also visiting with a professional fitness coach for recommendations can help.

It is possible to also hit an exercise plateau, where you stop seeing muscle or strength gains, even though you are working out consistently.

The body is very efficient, so if you are doing the same exercises for the same amount of time at the same intensity, it will stop needing to adapt, and your progress will stop.

In order to continue meeting your goals, you will need to constantly change things up to keep the muscles “guessing.” This can mean adding interval training to your cardio sessions, making one of your strength-training days a “body-weight” day, where you do pushups, planks and crunches instead of using dumbbells or barbells. It could even mean taking one complete day of rest on a day when you would normally exercise. By constantly changing your routine, the body will constantly need to adapt, which will prevent an exercise plateau and help you achieve your fitness goals.

Plateaus, while frustrating, are a normal part of any wellness plan. Understanding what causes them and how to adjust your diet and exercise routine accordingly will keep you on track and moving toward your goals.

Be Well Tips

  • Consult a physician before beginning or modifying a routine.
  • Determine your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).
  • Review your daily caloric intake.
  • Increase daily caloric burn through exercise.
  • Change your exercise routine frequently.

Exercise Order

By Bentz Tozer, Jr., B.S., CPT

hbg_nov16bewell-5c45aeaeA well-rounded exercise program includes exercises that work all the muscles in the body. What’s rarely mentioned is the importance of exercise sequence, or the order in which the exercises are performed and completed.
Strength-training in the correct order is crucial to maximizing results and getting the most from your workouts. Different training methods have different philosophies, but there are some general rules to keep in mind when applying proper exercise order.

So, what is the reason for these rules-of-thumb?

An article published in the journal Sports Medicine looked at research of both acute and chronic responses to exercise.

Acute responses occur during a workout (reps you can do), while chronic responses occur over time (muscle-building). It’s not a surprise to learn that you’ll be able to perform more repetitions of the exercises that are at the start of your workout, prior to fatigue. What was surprising is that the research also showed greater strength gains and muscular development with exercises done at the beginning of a workout and less progress with the exercises toward the end. The research showed that this was true for all the muscle groups in the body.

This is the reason that exercise order is the key to effective workouts. You need to train in the proper order to achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself. If your goal is to improve your bench press, then you should bench at the start of your workout, before you do triceps extensions or shoulder presses. The movements you want to improve or accomplish the most need to be done first.

This also speaks to the importance of customized workouts. An exercise professional can work with you to create the best program for you based on your individual goals. Contact a professional to start maximizing your workouts today.

  1. Larger muscles should be trained before smaller muscles. Examples of this are chest before triceps or quadriceps before calf muscles.
  2. Compound exercises, which are exercises that involve more than one muscle group,should come before isolation exercises, which are exercises that work only one muscle.
    An example of a compound exercise is the bench press, which works the chest, shoulders and triceps. An isolation-exercise example is a biceps curl, which works only the biceps.
  3. Free-weight exercises should be done before machine exercises. For example, squats before leg presses. The reason for this is tied into No. 2 listed above: free weights utilize several muscle groups at one time improving stabilization. They also force different areas of the body to work together as a unit. Machines allow for an isolation of a specific muscle or muscle group.

Be Well Tips

  • Consult a physician before beginning any exercise program.
  • Meet with an exercise professional to customize your program.
  • Train large muscles before small muscles.
  • Perform compound exercises before isolation exercises.
  • Free-weight exercises should be done before machine exercises.

Exercise and High Blood Pressure

heartYou may have heard your doctor or other medical professionals say that regular exercise helps lower blood pressure or can help reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure. The reason for this is simple: Regular exercise makes your heart stronger, which means it can pump blood with less effort. If the heart uses less effort to pump the blood, it decreases the force on the arteries, which lowers blood pressure.

According to the Mayo Clinic, getting more physical activity can lower your systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood-pressure reading) just as well as some blood-pressure medications. They also state that regular exercise can help to prevent blood pressure from rising as you get older.  It is important to note that in order to keep the blood pressure low, you need to exercise on a regular basis. It takes a few months for exercise to have an impact on the blood pressure, and the benefits will only last as long as you continue to exercise.

Aerobic activity and weight-training are both important parts of a regular exercise routine, and both types can help to effectively control blood pressure. Aerobic activity increases your heart rate and breathing. These are activities like running, swimming or biking, but they can also include chores like raking leaves or mopping floors.

The Department of Health & Human Services recommends getting 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. Keep in mind that short sessions are also effective. You could do four 15-minute sessions of aerobic activity and get the same benefits as a 60-minute session.

The Department of Health & Human Services recommends strength-training of all the major muscle groups at least twice a week. If you already have high blood pressure, there are some key things to remember. Lifting weights can temporarily increase blood pressure during the actual exercise. It is important to discuss with your doctor adding strength-training exercises to your routine, particularly if you have high blood pressure. Be sure to use proper form at all times to reduce injury risk. It’s also important to keep breathing during the exercise. Holding your breath during the exercise can cause a spike in blood pressure. If you already have high blood pressure, this can be dangerous. Additionally, it is a good idea to use lighter weights and do more repetitions. Bigger weights cause a greater strain on the body, which can cause a greater increase in blood pressure.

If you take the time to learn these important tips and also listen to your body, strength-training combined with aerobic activity can be key to lowering and maintaining your blood pressure. Be sure to incorporate warm-up and cool-down sessions prior to and after exercising. Monitor your blood pressure so you will know if you are making progress, either by using a home monitor or getting your blood pressure checked each time you see your doctor.

Be Well Tips
  Incorporate aerobic activity and strength-training into your fitness routine.
  Learn and use proper form at all times.
  Keep breathing through the exercises.
  Use lighter weights, and do more reps.
  Monitor your blood pressure regularly.
  Speak to your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

Exercise for Allergy Relief

pool-43626b40Allergies can make you miserable. Itchy eyes, runny nose, scratchy throat, repeated sneezing and fatigue are common allergy symptoms. Recent studies have shown that regular exercise can help ease and manage these symptoms.

According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI), allergens gather in stagnant, fixed positions in the body, causing inflammation that can destroy tissue. Exercise causes a strong blood flow, which moves the allergens through the blood stream quickly, preventing this inflammation and damage.

So, what types of exercise provide the most allergy relief?

The first thing to consider is the type of allergy you have. Someone who is allergic to pollen will most likely not enjoy a hike through grassy areas. Someone who is allergic to pet dander will be uncomfortable doing yoga with a friend who has pets.

Aquatic exercise is an ideal workout for nasal allergy sufferers. An indoor pool is an ideal workout on days when the pollen count is high. The warm, humid air will help clear your sinuses, making it easier to breathe. Also consider a racquetball game or running on a treadmill if being outside is making your allergies flair up.

Regular exercise strengthens and conditions your heart and lungs, which is beneficial to those who suffer from respiratory allergies. Yoga focuses on deep breathing, as does Pilates, so sign up for a class at your local studio.  The AAAAI has found that exercise that requires short bursts of energy, like strength training or tennis, are less likely to trigger this type of allergy than steady-state exercise, such as running or basketball.

You should also pay attention to the weather and the time of day in order to keep allergy symptoms at bay. The pollen count is highest between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. and also again at dusk, so plan your outdoor workout when pollen counts are lowest. Dry, windy days bring high pollen levels, so plan a strength-training or indoor pool workout for those days. High humidity can make breathing feel difficult. It also contributes to mold growth, so if you have a mold allergy, schedule your workout for a cooler time of day.

Be sure to also stay well-hydrated. Some allergy medicines can cause dry mouth, or if you are breathing through your mouth because your nose is stuffed up, your throat and bronchial passageways can become dry.


Be Well Tips

●  Visit an allergist who can develop a treatment plan that can keep you exercising.

●  Determine your allergy triggers.

●  Be mindful of your surroundings.

●  Check daily pollen and mold counts for your area.

●  Remember your warmup.

●  Stay hydrated.

●  Meet with a personal trainer to customize a workout.

Summer Food Safety

OutdoorDinnerPicnic-fa5f02bcSummers are usually full of fun outdoor activities, like picnics, barbecues or dinners made on the grill. However, transporting food combined with the increase in temperatures creates a prime environment for food-borne bacteria to grow and multiply.

There are several things you can to do keep food safe when eating outdoors. One of the most important things is to make sure that cold food stays cold. Food should be stored at a temperature of 40 degrees or below to prevent the growth of bacteria that can cause illness. Make sure to have plenty of ice or gel packs. Beef or poultry can be transported while still frozen, which will keep them colder for longer. Another way to make sure cold food stays cold is to pack it in a separate cooler away from non-perishable foods or beverages, and keep the cooler closed until you are ready to prepare the food. Separating these foods from drinks or snack foods prevents the cooler from being continually opened. Make sure coolers with perishable foods are kept out of direct sunlight as well.

If you are transporting raw meats, it is very important to pack them separately from other foods to prevent cross-contamination. You’ll want to also make sure they are tightly wrapped to prevent leaking. Be sure to pack extra plates and utensils – one set for raw foods, one set for cooked foods. Any marinades or sauces that were used with raw meats should be discarded immediately. A food thermometer is also a good item to pack to be sure your food reaches a safe internal temperature. A food thermometer is a good idea for cold foods as well, such as potato salad or deviled eggs, to be sure they stay at a safe cold temperature.

It’s important that all produce be washed, even items where the skin or peel is not eaten. Packing fruits and vegetables together can cause cross-contamination, so be sure to pre-wash all your produce prior to packing it. If you are picnicking at a place that has access to running water, wash all produce before consuming it.

Once the food has been prepared and served, any remaining food should be put away quickly. Both hot and cold foods should not sit out for more than two hours, and if the temperature is above 90 degrees, no longer than one hour.

As always, it is important to keep your hands and eating surfaces clean, especially if you are preparing raw meat. If you have access to running water, wash your hands before and after cooking any food. If you do not, a jug of water, soap and a paper towel will do the trick, or keep a bottle of hand sanitizer nearby. A pack of sanitizing wipes is an easy way to clean any tables or eating surfaces quickly.

Eating outdoors is part of the fun of summer. Taking the time to be sure food is handled safely will keep the fun going all season long.

Be Well Tips
– Keep cold food cold and hot food hot.
– Pack raw meats separately from other foods.
– Use separate utensils for raw and cooked foods.
– Wash all produce before eating.
– Wash or sanitize hands and surfaces frequently.
– Put food away once everyone is done eating.

Traveling Well

imageTravel can be very challenging. Making arrangements, packing, sticking to the schedule, the crowds, jet lag – it can all add up to create a stressful experience.

However, there are some things you can do to minimize the stress of traveling. Sticking to good habits can keep you feeling well. This can help keep your stress levels down and make traveling run smoothly.

Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water will help your digestive system stay on track and will help you stay energized. It can also help you avoid muscle cramps during long-seated periods, such as on an airplane or bus trip. Bottled water is a plus when traveling to a foreign country. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, there’s a 20- to 50-percent chance of developing intestinal problems from drinking the local water. Having bottled water on hand will prevent this issue.

Pack your food: You’re most likely packing a suitcase anyway, right? Taking a little extra time to pack healthful foods for your trip will keep your diet on track and can help you avoid the temptation of fast food or vending machines. Pack a small bag with fruits, veggies, protein bars and almonds. This will also help keep your blood sugar stable and your energy levels up during your trip.

Take your workout with you: Most hotels these days have gyms, but they may be crowded or be unmaintained. Plan to do some form of exercise during your trip. Pack exercise bands or some small hand-weights to exercise in your room. You could also do body-weight exercises, such as planks, pushups, squats and crunches. This will help get the blood flowing after a long trip, plus stretch your muscles if you’ve been sitting for a long period of time. Consult a professional to customize a “traveler’s workout.” The change from your regular exercise routine will also be good for your body.

Get plenty of sleep: If you are traveling across time zones, you may experience jet lag. Avoid caffeine and alcohol as these can disrupt your sleep. Before your trip, begin acclimating yourself to the local time of your destination. Adjust your meal times an hour or two as digestion can interfere with sleep. Go to bed a little earlier or later for a few nights prior to your trip. These things will help your body adjust more easily once you arrive.

Some simple planning can minimize the stress of traveling and possibly even make it an enjoyable experience. Preparation is the key to traveling well!

Sugar Danger

Sugar-8b53e2ecThere’s a lot of talk in the media these days about the dangers of sugar, but is it accurate? Is there any amount of sugar that’s OK?

First of all, it’s important to note that some sugar occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables, which are important for a healthful diet. Glucose is an example of this type of sugar. It is used directly for energy in the body and can also be converted into glycogen, which is fuel for the body’s muscles. Fructose is another natural sugar, which is found in fruit and honey. Similarly, lactose is the sugar found in milk. Our bodies have the enzyme that’s necessary for us to process this type of sugar. People who lack this enzyme are lactose-intolerant.

Fruits and vegetables contain fiber, vitamins and other nutrients that help balance out the sugar they contain and also help the body more easily process these naturally occurring sugars. When people speak of the “dangers of sugar,” they are talking about processed or refined sugars.

Processed sugars contain no nutritional value: they are empty calories. There’s no fiber, no healthful enzymes, no vitamins and no minerals. Therefore, when you consume these types of sugars, the body must borrow nutrients from healthy cells in the body in order to process them. This causes harmful stress to the body and can create long-term damage.  For example, the body will pull calcium from our teeth and bones in order to help process refined sugar. Over a long period of time, this calcium depletion can lead to tooth decay and even osteoporosis.

Processed or refined sugars can also stress the liver. Our liver converts glucose into glycogen from the healthful foods we eat and stores it to be used as the body needs it. Since it already has this glycogen storage, it converts processed sugars into fat. Some of this fat gets transported into the body as triglycerides, some of it remains in the liver, which can contribute to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Eventually, the liver can become insulin-resistant.

Regular consumption of processed sugars creates a rapid rise in blood-sugar levels. This causes the pancreas to work overtime trying to produce enough insulin to stabilize the level of sugar in the blood. When they are no longer able to do so, blood-sugar levels elevate significantly, and without the proper amount of insulin to even it out, the body develops diabetes.

According to Dr. Robert Lustig, professor of Clinical Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California, the body can safely process six teaspoons of sugar per day. Most Americans consume over three times that amount.

This excess consumption causes metabolic dysfunction, which creates weight gain, high blood pressure and elevated blood-sugar levels and triglycerides. It also turns off the body’s appetite-control system, basically tricking your body into thinking it has not been satisfied, causing you to crave more and more. It creates a dependence or addiction in the brain, the same way alcohol or drugs do.

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) has discovered that processed-sugar consumption can greatly increase the risk of cancer. According to the studies done by AACR, the way the body metabolizes these sugars is “pivotal” for cancer growth. Cancer cells use processed sugars to increase the growth of the diseased cells and also to spread them throughout the body, greatly decreasing the chances of survival.

Processed foods are everywhere today, so it is very important to pay attention to what you are consuming. In order for the body to function well, it needs to be fed well. This means eating healthful, natural foods as much as possible and limiting the amount of processed foods, in particular, processed or refined sugars.

Be Well Tips

  • Consult a physician before changing or starting a new diet.
  • Limit the amount of processed foods consumed.
  • Eat primarily natural foods.
  • Limit sugar to 25 grams per day.
  • Drink plenty of water.

Be Well: Strength-Train for a Strong Brain

strongWoman-726c32e1It’s a fact that strength-training will make your body stronger, but did you know that it also improves the strength of your brain?

The brain is an organ, and like the other organs in the body, it is constantly changing, adapting and repairing itself in response to life’s activities, including exercise. It also changes as we age, just like the rest of the body. Neurological studies show that, by middle age, the majority of people begin developing age-caused lesions in the white matter of the brain. This white matter is what connects the different regions of the brain and is how the brain sends messages back and forth. As we grow older, these lesions can grow and multiply, affecting our cognitive abilities, like our memory. The brain also tends to shrink with age, which affects how we move, causing slower walking or a decrease in balance.

A study done by the UBC Aging, Mobility & Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory followed 155 women, ages 65 to 75, for one year. The women were assigned to one of three different exercise programs – stretching-and-balance training, strength-training once a week and the third group strength-trained twice a week. At the end of the year, the women in the stretching group and the women who lifted weights once a week showed a significant progression in the number and size of lesions in their brains. The women who lifted weights twice a week showed significantly less new lesions and a slowed progression in the pre-existing lesions. They also showed less shrinkage of the brain and walked more quickly and smoothly than the women in the other two groups.

According to the study’s author, Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose, a UBC physical-therapy professor, this is one of the first studies to show the strength-training benefits on the brain. It also shows that training less than twice a week is insufficient. “A minimum threshold of exercise needs to be achieved,” noted Liu-Ambrose.
Another study done by graduate students at the Georgia Institute of Technology asked a group of 46 adults to look at 90 photographs on a computer screen. Half of the group then did a short exercise session, while the other half did no exercise. Two days later, the same 46 people looked at a series of 180 photographs and were asked to recall which photos they had seen before. Those who exercised remembered 60 percent of the photos they had seen before, while those who had not exercised remembered far fewer of the photos.

Research shows that exercise improves memory due to the release of the stress hormone norepinephrine. This hormone is a chemical messenger in the brain and plays a key role in memory.

These studies show that strength-training benefits the brain just as it does the rest of the body. For older adults with limited mobility, strength-training may even be easier to do than aerobic exercises, like running or swimming. It improves both physical and cognitive health at any and all ages.

Be Well Tips

  • Consult a physician before beginning or changing an exercise program.
  • Strength-train at least twice a week.
  • Strength-training can be done at any age.
  • Strength-training improves cognitive function.
  • Consult a professional to begin a strength-training program.

Stress Down = Performance Up

by Bentz P. Tozer, Jr., B.S., CPT

Stress is an unavoidable part of life. According to the American Psychological Association, seven out of ten people say they experience stress daily, with most of them saying it negatively interferes with their lives.

Learning how to cope with and manage stress levels is important, because it can affect us both physically &emotionally, and can cause workplace issues as well. While jobs and careers provide an income and a sense of accomplishment, they also contribute to high stress levels. Performance expectations, deadlines, multiple responsibilities & trying to balance your professional life with your personal life can easily become overwhelming if you don’t learn how to manage stress.

Unmanaged job stress can lead to “burnout”, which, according to the APA (American Psychological Association) is a condition of emotional exhaustion and a negative attitude toward your job and co-workers. Burnout can lead to depression, which has been associated with other serious health issues like strokes and heart disease. Stress can also affect work performance by affecting your ability to concentrate on physical or mental tasks, or hindering your ability to learn new policies or procedures. This can cause costly or dangerous mistakes on the job. In addition, health issues that can stem from stress may cause illness-related work absences which contributes to your stress levels, due to concerns about work piling up while you are gone, or worrying about being laid off or fired.

So what can you do to keep your stress at a low & manageable level? One of the best ways to “de-stress” is exercise. In addition to simply being good for you, exercise releases endorphins, the “feel good” hormones which counteract the negative effects of stress. Exercise also stretches and loosens tight muscles. This can help relieve stress headaches or neck & back pain. Exercise is also a great way to distract your from your problems. Focusing on the exercise and the goal you are trying to reach allows you to stop thinking about work or personal issues. This gives you a break from the stress. Physical exertion will also tire you out, which will improve your sleep, which in turn reduces stress levels.

The best way to get started with an exercise routine is to pick an activity that you like or have an interest in. It could be swimming, yoga, strength training, or even simply taking a short walk at lunchtime. The ADAA (Anxiety & Depression Association of America) says that even ten minutes of exercise can create anti-stress effects.

Learning how to manage stress will have a positive effect on your physical & mental health. Contact a professional to get started today!

Be Well Tips:

  •  Contact a physician before beginning any exercise program.
  •  Pick an activity you like.
  •  Take short breaks throughout the workday.
  •  Get at least 7 hours of sleep per night.
  •  Consult a professional to get a customized program.

Strength-Training Can Be For Kids

Boy_Weightlifting-e33d1b57Strength-training is a key component to overall fitness. But what is the best age to start adding it to an exercise program? How young is too young? Does it stunt growth?

It is important to note that strength-training is vastly different from power-lifting or bodybuilding. These competitive activities are focused on lifting heavier weights or building more muscle. This can be detrimental to young people whose muscles, tendons and bones are still growing and developing. Having said that, strength-training that is done correctly, with an emphasis on safety and proper technique, can assist physical development.

Strength-training for kids, when done properly, has several benefits. It can increase children’s muscle strength and endurance and strengthen bones. It can help maintain a healthy body weight. It improves performance in nearly all sports and can help protect children from sports-related injuries. It can also improve self-esteem and confidence and foster lifelong, healthful exercise habits.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends strength-training for children ages 8 and up.

“Parents think that strength-training is dangerous for kids, that it stunts growth, but this assumption is untrue,” says Dr. Jordan D. Metzl, MD, FAAP, who practices sports medicine at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. “Strength-training is different from power-lifting, and it is safe for kids starting at 8 years old. Because of this misconception and the lack of resources available for strength-training, most kids just don’t do it. That is part of the reason we’re seeing so many injuries in youth sports – kids’ bodies aren’t prepared.”

A strength-training program for children is going to differ from an adult program. There are some basic principles to follow when your child begins strength-training. First, get approval from your child’s physician, particularly if your child has a known health issue, like asthma for example. Hire a coach or personal trainer who has experience with youth strength-training. A professional can customize a program tailored to your child’s age, skills and interests. It’s important to work with lighter weights and focus on stressing the proper technique for each exercise. Your child may benefit from starting with body-weight exercises or resistance bands and then gradually begin lifting weights as they become stronger and more familiar with exercise techniques. Also, make sure your child is always supervised by someone who knows proper strength-training techniques.

Beginning a strength-training program is a great way for kids to get involved in fitness. In addition to building muscle strength and endurance, it also improves self-esteem and will help to create a great fitness habit that will last a lifetime.

Be Well Tips

– Speak with your child’s doctor before starting any exercise program.

– Seek instruction  from  a professional experienced in youth  strength-training.

– Start with body-weight or resistance-band exercises.

– Focus on proper technique.

– Make sure your child has adult supervision.

– Keep  it  fun.

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