Health & Wellness
It's pretty obvious that exercise is great for your physical health, helping with weight management, cardiovascular health, and blood sugar management among other benefits, but it turns out that getting your heart pumping can be great for your brain as well. Here are seven ways that exercise can do great things for your mental health.
Exercise can make you smarter. It turns out that the same hormones that make your body stronger as a result of exercise (growth hormones) also positively affect your brain leading to better function in the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is associated with learning and memory. Additionally, exercise is also associated with increases in BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor), which also positively impacts memory (more on that in a bit).
Exercise can improve your pain tolerance. Whether you're managing arthritis or struggling with an achy back, your best prescription may be to get moving. A recent study demonstrated that improvements in aerobic fitness are correlated to increases in tolerating pain. While improvements in strength and circulation could be a factor, it's likely that the psychological perception of pain also changes as a result of exercise, causing pain to be perceived as more tolerable and less limiting.
Exercise can help you manage your stress. As a simple explanation, exercise is a healthy way of responding to the "fight or flight" scenario that our bodies create in response to stressful situations. By providing an outlet for the elevated cortisol and adrenal response, as well as through the creation of endorphins (commonly referred to as feel good chemicals), exercise can help you keep the negative impacts of stress on your body and brain within healthy levels.
Exercise can help you sleep better. Moderate physical exercise has been demonstrated to reduce the time that it takes to fall asleep and to improve the quality of sleep. Even single exercise sessions of moderate intensity have been demonstrated to improve sleep for that night, while the benefits increase in the long term. Just remember to avoid exercise for two hours before your bedtime in order to give your body and brain sufficient time to cool down before you turn in.
Exercise can improve your self-esteem. One of the best things about sticking to a regular exercise routine is when you begin to see improvements. Whether you find yourself able to lift more weight or bike longer and harder, those changes in performance make you feel good about what you're doing. This feeling of competence directly impacts perceptions of self-worth, making you more confident over time.
Exercise can help depression and anxiety. It just makes sense that something that improves sleep, self-esteem, stress levels, and concentration would also be good for depression and anxiety, doesn't it? Exercise can have the added benefits of increasing social support and involvement and positively impacting the dopaminergic, serotonergic, and noradrenergic systems of the body, neurochemicals that are also affected by many anti-depressant medications. If you're struggling with clinical depression or even managing a case of the blues, add in exercise to assist in better managing your symptoms.
Exercise can improve your concentration. Exercise is not only linked to increased intelligence in the long run, but it can also improve your immediate concentration. In addition to impacting BDNF described above, exercising and moving around uses more brain cells, increases circulation to all parts of your body, and results in better regulation of blood sugar and metabolism. Try scheduling "walking meetings" or lunch break workouts to keep your concentration on point through your afternoon.
While we tend to emphasize greater intensity and longer training sessions when pushing for performance and physical change in our bodies from exercise, it's important to know that the mental health benefits of exercise are attainable for everyone. Even ten minutes of exercise positively impacts aerobic fitness and blood pressure and can be effective in generating the psychological benefits described here.
Bring your exercises home and feel great on a daily basis with your very own home cardio machine.
Posted: August 29, 2017||
The biggest barrier to working out is seeing it as “WORK”. Sometimes all we need is a little fun to keep us going! If you need some exercise motivation, give the following tips a try. Make your workout seem less like work and more like FUN!
- If you love to read, try reading while riding a stationary bike or on an elliptical. Grab your phone, tablet, or latest gossip magazine. Reading can be a fun distraction while working out – just make sure to keep proper form and don’t slack in your pedaling while catching up on the latest news!
- Instead of being a couch potato the next time you watch TV, hop on a treadmill or elliptical while you watch your favorite shows! Turn a 30 minute TV show into a circuit workout. Pedal, walk or run during show segments and use the commercial time for crunches, push-ups, or jumping jacks. You can also run the stairs, take a lap outside, or crank up the intensity during those 2 minute breaks. This will give you a great interval workout
- Call a friend, co-worker, or spouse to help motivate you and keep you on track. Setting a workout time and place to exercise together will both be more fun and keep you from bowing out of a sweat session. Working out with a partner could also spark some friendly competition and they will cheer you on as you go.
- Make a playlist of your favorite upbeat songs that energize you and keep you moving! Pick out fast paced songs that you love and that will keep your body and mind stimulated. When the music is pumping, you are less likely to slack!
- If indoor fitness equipment is a challenge, be creative and use the things in your house or apartment to create a circuit. Use chairs for tricep dips, run the stairs, take a lap around your house, use cans of soup for weights, or purchase exercise bands. Resistance bands are a low cost alternative to dumbbells and weights. They can be used anywhere and can easily be packed in a bag or purse for mid-day workouts.
- Don't let a time crunch be a factor for you. You don't need to dedicate an entire 30-60 minute segment to working out. Try interval training in 10-15 minute "chunks". Warm up, follow with some moderate intensity exercise, followed by 2 minutes of high-intensity exercises. Alternate back and forth of moderate to high-intensity until your time has expired. Remember, breaking a 30 minute exercise routine into 2 "chunks" of time, is far better than not exercising at all.
- Always remind yourself that exercise has many benefits beyond weight loss. You'll feel healthier, happier, and potentially live a longer life with staying active. If you are looking for weight loss, remember, the weight didn't come on overnight, don't expect it to come off overnight. Stay focused, motivated, and be patient with yourself. Don't get discouraged.
Remember, making exercise FUN is a great way to keep you moving and motivated on your fitness journey.
Written by Dave Indelicato, Fitness Consultant with 2nd Wind store, Oklahoma City. Dave is a NASM Certified Trainer, Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist who formerly managed 6 gyms and owned 5 nutrition stores. Fitness has been a part of his life for years. Read his take on why he chose the home gym route over a membership, and how it's made exercising so much easier and accessible each day with a young family.
"Fitness has been a massive part of my life for as long as I can remember. I’ve always wanted to have some equipment at home to workout with, but I always told myself that no matter what, I would still need to go to the gym. I just didn’t think that I would ever be able to get the intense and various workouts I needed in my house. When my wife and I found out that we were expecting our 2nd child we decided to take a leap and tackle our fitness goals at home. We hoped that having what we needed at the house would make it easier for us to find time to workout once we had two children to chase after. We didn’t get too crazy when picking out our equipment: an elliptical, a bench, some adjustable dumbbells, and a home gym. Well, after 17 years of absolute certainty regarding my workout needs I officially stand corrected. 20 minutes into my first workout at home I could not stop counting the reasons why my gym was better than any I had ever paid a membership for. For those of you who have been on the fence about creating your own gym, consider the following:
Money: My wife and I are saving approximately $135.00/month in gym fees, gas, and toll fees. Time: The amount of time saved is almost incalculable. There is no drive to and from the gym, less time getting ready to workout, there is no wait for equipment, there are no large parking lots to find a spot in, and there is no checking our sons in and out of child care. This is a major benefit to us because our time together is priceless.
Childcare: Not everyone has to worry about this factor, but for those of you who do it is huge! Our “home gym childcare” is always open. It is also cleaner, more familiar, and more comfortable for our sons. We never have to worry about limits being met on the number of children, and if one of our sons has a cold or fever we can still get a workout in. Lastly, we don’t have to get the boys ready to go; another time saver.
Adaptability: With our home gym we have purchased the equipment that we will use, nothing more and nothing less. We are not paying to maintain a cardio cinema, a pool, or any of the machines that we did not use in 17 years with a membership. If we decide we need an addition to our gym we can do it. We can listen to the music we want, stretch where we please, and we have a “bring a friend anytime” policy! Our gym is open 24/7, 365 days a year. It is not closed on holidays or during ice storms.
NO EXCUSE environment: Let’s be honest, with all of our own equipment right behind a door in our house there is no excuse for ever letting our health slip away. We have an exclusive and private gym that is cleaner than any health facility, and dedicated to our individualized health needs. Fitness and health do not always have a “cookie cutter” solution. You have to utilize what is right for your goals. Even without a car we can still make it to the gym.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, we will be setting an example for our children. We want them to see that fitness is an important part of life that requires dedication, but rewards you with better quality of life."
If you've been considering adding a gym to your home, find a store near you or visit us online to learn about the many options we have to choose from at various price points. All brand-name, gym-quality equipment you'll actually want to workout on! Also, with many financing options, it's easier on the budget to get the gym perfect for your home, budget and goals.
Posted: August 09, 2017||
Exercises to improve posture are needed due to our current habit of spending hours each day hunched over a desk and slouched in a chair lead to rounded shoulders, a forward drooping head and a rounded back. We call this postural distortion Upper-Crossed Syndrome, or rounded shoulders. If left unchecked the Upper Crossed Syndrome can lead to shoulder and neck pain. Sitting at a desk for long periods of time leads to tight traps, lats and chest muscles, and can cause weakness in the rhomboids and rotator cuff muscles. The rhomboids are a key muscle group because they help pull your shoulder blades together.
In order to fix rounded shoulders, we need to relax the tight muscles with a combination of rolling and stretching and also strengthen the muscles that are weak.
Six Exercises to Improve Posture1. Foam Rolling Your Lats and Chest
Demo Video: How-to Foam Roll Lats and Chest
Purpose: Relaxing the lats and chest muscles
Execution: To roll your lats, lie on one side on the floor. Place a foam roller just under your armpit nearest the floor, and reach your arm above your head. Roll back and forth, pausing when you find a tender spot. Hold pressure from the foam roller on that tender spot for 30-60 seconds until it's no longer uncomfortable. Switch sides and repeat.
To roll your chest: Lay face down on the floor. Place a foam roller under the right side of your chest. Extend your right arm out to the side. Roll side to side looking for the tender spot.
Hold pressure on that tender spot for 30-60 seconds until it's no longer uncomfortable. Switch sides and repeat.
2. Pectoral Stretch
Demo Video: Pec Stretch
Purpose: Lengthen the muscles in the chest
Execution: Stand next to a wall (a bookshelf or other sturdy object will work as well.) Place your right forearm on the wall so that your elbow is in line with your shoulder, your fingers are pointing toward the ceiling, you elbow pointing toward the floor. Step your right foot forward. Rotate your torso toward your left side until you feel a gentle stretch in your chest. Hold the stretch for 30-60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
3. Lat Exercise
Demo Video: Stability Ball Lat Stretch
Purpose: Lengthen the lats.
Execution: Kneel on all fours in front of an exercise ball (a chair or bench will also work for this). Place both hands on the ball and roll forward until you feel a gentle stretch along your back and sides. Be sure to keep your back flat. To intensify the stretch, you can sink your chest toward the floor. Hold for 30-60 seconds.
4. Back and Shoulder Exercise
Demo Video: Stability Ball Back and Shoulder Combo
Purpose: Strengthen the traps, rhomboids and rotator cuff muscles
Execution: Lie on your stomach on a stability ball with straight legs, toes on the ground. Holding a light dumbbell in each hand, squeeze your shoulder blades together and row your arms, driving your elbows up toward the ceiling. Next, rotate your shoulders and arms so that your hands are in line with your ears. Now drive your arms straight ahead. Bring your hands back down to ear level and then rotate your shoulders inward so that your hands are pointing down to the floor. Return your arms to the starting position.
Repeat for 12-15 reps
5. Shoulder Exercise
Demo Video: Resistance Band - Extensions
Purpose: Strengthen rhomboids, traps, rotator cuff and rear shoulder muscles.
Execution: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and grab a resistance band with both hands. Lift your hands in front of your chest, level with your shoulders, palms facing the floor. With straight elbows, stretch the band by moving your arms out to your sides, squeezing your shoulder blades. Pause and return to the starting position. Be sure you're not bunching your shoulders up to your ears to complete each movement.
Repeat for 12-15 reps
6. Back Exercise
Demo Video: Floor Cobra Exercise
Purpose: Strengthen rhomboids and lower back
Execution: Lie face down on the floor with your arms by your side and palms flat on the floor. Keeping your nose pointed toward the floor, squeeze your shoulder blades together and lift your torso up off he floor. Ease back to the floor and repeat.
Repeat for 12-15 reps
Article by Andrae Delaney, a Fitness Consultant with 2nd Wind Exercise Equipment as well as a Certified Personal Trainer, certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Andrae holds certifications in Weight Loss, Fitness Nutrition, Corrective Exercise, Group Training and is currently working toward a Master Trainer Certificate.
Need an excuse to head outside? Whether you’re hanging with kids, the whole family, or just adults, outdoor games will do the trick. With options for every budget, fitness level, and age, outdoor games are a great way to socialize and stay active at your next gathering. Here are some outdoor family fitness games to get you started!Read more »
Traditional Outdoor Family Fitness GamesFrom corn hole to bocce ball, it’s easy to find these favorites at yard and craft sales. They tend to appeal to a wide audience and you can usually participate with a cold beverage in hand. Set up teams to increase the interaction and to level the playing field between young and old.
Craft your Own Outdoor Family GamesReady to get creative? Or maybe you’re just feeling thrifty. You can make your own outdoor games with a minimal investment of time and money or create a masterpiece that you can enjoy for years to come. I love the Outdoor Twister (paint your circles right onto the grass!) and the Giant Ring Toss using pool noodles. If you’re feeling extra crafty, you can make a giant yard Jenga from 2 x 4’s. Throw in an afternoon session of painting pieces for the kids and you’ve got a double round of fun!
Leveled Up Outdoor GamesGot an old step ladder around? Some plastic for a slip and slide? Level up your outdoor recreation with a combination game requiring multiple steps. Combine favorites like a ladder bean bag toss (see that link above) with a run through a sprinkler or down a slip and slide. This is a great combination for kids and adults. Get creative and incorporate some of the features of your backyard, including swing sets, trampolines, rolls down a gentle hill, even animal exercises!
Creative Outdoor Family GamesNot all games require a big investment in time, money, or supplies. Popular favorites include water balloon fights (or Dodgeball), egg carries and tosses, bottle battle (or beer frisbee), and capture the flag. You can also put together an outdoor photo booth, create a toilet paper fashion show, or battle with balloons and empty paper towel holders.
With a little creativity, you can take your outdoor games to a new level this year. If you have something especially wet or messy planned, be sure to let your guests know ahead of time so they can dress for it, (and mentally prepare). Set up teams so that all levels of players feel comfortable joining in on the fun and leave room for spectators to enjoy from the side. Finally, stay flexible. It’s nice to have a variety of options so guests can join in throughout the day (or evening).
About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Joli.