Three Common Side Effects of the Holiday Season and How to Avoid Them

The days are already getting darker and the nights colder. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, the holiday season is officially upon us.  With the excitement and joy of the holiday season come common side effects that can impact us all, no matter how prepared we feel.  Be warned, the holidays may cause fatigue, stress, weight gain, and even depression and anxiety.  The preventative steps you need for each side effect can be found at FitClub!avoid-overeating-easy-hacks-to-healthy-eating-on-thanksgiving

  • Weight gain. Starting with Thanksgiving, the desserts, heavy pastries and holiday-themed cocktails seem to be everywhere.  Weight gain can seem unavoidable this time of year.  If you plan ahead and aim for moderation in every area of your life, you can avoid the most common side effect of the holiday season.  Rather than striving for perfection and complete deprivation when the desserts are passed around your Thanksgiving table, strive for a modest portion of a traditional favorite.  Waking up early to take time for yourself with a pre-feast workout at FitClub can also help keep weight gain at bay this year.  FitClub is open at the South and West locations until 1PM on Thanksgiving, giving you a perfect start to your holiday!
  • Depression and anxiety. If you find yourself feeling depressed or more anxious than normal during the holidays, you are not alone.  According to Anxiety and Depression Association of America, almost 75% of Americans report feeling some degree of depression and anxiety during the holiday season.  While feeling depressed during the holidays is not unusual, there are steps you can take to minimize the impact.  Ensuring that you’re taking time for yourself to achieve high quality sleep and complete your workout allows  your brain chemistry to maintain a healthy balance and help you fight off the stress that contributes to general feelings of unease.  It’s not selfish to take time out for yourself during the holidays, it’s crucial.
  • For many people, work doesn’t come to a stop just because the holidays are here.  On top of juggling your already busy work schedule, you probably also have family obligations, holiday parties, and last minute shopping to complete.  The countdown to Christmas begins earlier every year, leaving many of us feeling exhausted before we even sit down for Thanksgiving dinner.  If you’re new to working out, it may seem counterintuitive that hitting FitClub everyday can increase your energy, but that’s exactly what a great workout can do.  Breaking a sweat every day during the holiday season can leave you feeling more energized to tackle that growing to do list and make it through every obligation feeling well.

Not sure how to best minimize the holiday side effects this year?  Stop at the front desk of FitClub and ask to talk to a personal trainer.  Being open about the side effects of the holiday season is a great gift that you can give yourself and everyone around you this holiday season!

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Can Enjoying a Grateful Thanksgiving Season Make Us Healthier? Science Says Yes!

Before you start planning your Thanksgiving menu and stressing about the beginning of the holiday season, science has good news about the Thanksgiving holiday.  Expressing gratitude daily can improve your physical and mental health.istock-649645602-5a15fe8cc7822d001a7e18cb

How can writing or saying words of gratitude improve your physical health?

Researchers at UC Davis reported through clinical trials that expressing gratitude actually has the opposite effect of stress on or bodies.  While stress is linked to the stress hormone, cortisol, which impedes our physical health, gratitude allows our body to release the feel-good hormone known as oxytocin.  When you reduce the amount of cortisol in your body, you improve your blood pressure and immune system, both of which are often challenged during large family gatherings during the holiday season.  People that expressed gratitude more often also report a higher quality of sleep leaving you with enough energy to power through the holiday season.

How does gratitude effect your mental health?

While feelings of stress tend to leave us feeling isolated and depressed, expressing gratitude gives us a better sense of connection to our loved ones, and even strangers in our community.  The more often you practice gratitude consistently, the stronger your instinct to look for moments of gratitude becomes. Instead of focusing on everything that went wrong with your day, you might quickly find yourself searching out what went right so you create moments of gratitude.  Gratitude may be the perfect antidote to holiday stressors!

How can you get started with a gratitude practice?

Developing a gratitude practice couldn’t be easier. Start by writing down three things at the end of each day that you’re grateful for in a journal or a notebook. Reflecting on gratitude doesn’t require outlandish displays of affection or a stunning landscape.  The key is to search out even the smallest act of kindness or moment of beauty.  A pleasant breeze, a beautiful fall tree, or a small, random act of kindness can get you started on the path to recognizing moments for which you’re grateful. Researchers estimate that simply by keeping a daily gratitude journal, you can reduce the amount of cortisol in your body by up to twenty-three percent!

Expanding your gratitude practice to simply saying “thank you” or telling someone that you’re grateful for something they have done allows the healthy benefits of gratitude to become contagious.  Spending a few moments writing a thank you note to a loved one, or thanking a stranger for a small act of kindness, can change the course of a day for another person and you still get to keep all the healthy benefits of being grateful!

Instead of focusing solely on your decorations or Thanksgiving menu this year, this is the perfect time to start planning how you will incorporate your new gratitude practice into your Thanksgiving traditions. You might just improve the health of everyone that you share your holiday with!

What Losing 5 % of Your Body Fat Actually Means To Your Health

When was the last time you evaluated your weight loss goal?  If you’re like most people, you may have determined a goal weight without realizing that you can begin to see health benefits after losing just the first 5% of body fat.  Instead of chasing huge weight loss goals, focusing on just the first 5% can not only improve your physical and mental health, but it can also give you the encouragement and confidence that you need to stay consistent.76762335

  • Even a small amount of initial fat loss can improve the way your vital organs function.The first 5% of fat loss can reduce the “visceral fat” in your body.  Visceral fat is the dangerous fat that surrounds your vital organs and impairs your body’s ability to operate most efficiently.
  • The first 5% of fat loss can also reap huge heart health benefits by reducing your blood pressure and reducing the cholesterol that builds up in your arteries, which leads to heart disease. After losing the first 5% of body fat, the levels of triglycerides and blood sugar also decrease.
  • Losing the first 5% of body fat also improves your mental and emotional health, making it easier to stick with a consistent exercise routine and healthy diet.After losing a small amount of weight, people generally report feeling more optimistic, sleeping better, and experiencing higher levels of energy.  When you begin to feel better, you begin to want to workout and enjoy a healthy meal, leading to a more consistent lifestyle change.
  • Movement may begin to feel easier after just losing the first 5% of your body weight.Even the most routine movements like walking down the street or climbing a flight of stairs may feel challenging when you’re just getting started.  Even after a small amount of weight loss, those same once-challenging movements begin to feel more efficient and require less strain on your joints.
  • Small victories result in big self-esteem gains. When you begin to see early results from your weight loss efforts, you might also notice that your clothes begin to fit better and the way you see yourself improves.  Even if your ultimate goal remains daunting, knowing that you have the ability to make important changes in your body and lifestyle can make you feel more optimistic about continuing with a healthy lifestyle.

So now that you know you don’t need to achieve your ultimate weight loss goal to begin to see remarkable health improvements, how do you get there?  A great place to start is with FitClub’s In-Body System that can measure your body composition. This service is included in your FitClub membership and can be scheduled at the front desk of any location. Having an accurate picture of what your body is made of can help you make sense of the numbers and break your weight loss goal down into more manageable, achievable chunks.  Working with a personal trainer at FitClub can also ensure that you’re chasing the healthiest goals for your body and doing it in a way that keep you motivated, injury-free, and living a healthier lifestyle for life.

The Health Benefits of Adding Fish to Your Diet

Would you believe that adding one food to your diet twice each week can improve both your brain and heart health?  It sounds fishy, but according to associations like the American Heart Association and Mayo Clinic, it’s completely true.  One to two servings of grilled, broiled, or baked fish can radically improve your health.fish-for-web-470x290

Fish is one of the most nutrient-dense foods widely available, containing protein, vitamin-D, and omega-3 fatty acids.  It’s the omega-3 fatty acids that lead to better brain health and reduce the risks of stroke and heart disease. Fatty fish like salmon, trout, tuna, and mackerel have the highest amounts of omega-3 fatty acids.  Don’t be afraid of the term “fatty acids”.  Unlike the saturated fats found in deep-fat fried junk food, these fatty acids are unsaturated and not only improve your health but also may improve the effectiveness of certain medications like antidepressants. According to Mayo Clinic, these fatty acids lower the body’s inflammation that leads to damaged blood vessels. In a study done in the United States that involved more than 40,000 men, eating at least one serving of fish per week resulted in a 15% lower risk of heart disease.

Although the heart benefits are astounding, your brain benefits from eating more fish, too.  As we age, our brain begins to lose grey matter.  Grey matter stores memories and the lack of grey matter reduces cognitive function.  People that eat fish at least once each week have more grey matter than those that don’t, leading to better cognition and mental function even as they age.

So how much fish do you need to include in your diet to reap the maximum benefits? Mayo Clinic recommends two servings of fatty fish each week.  One serving size is generally considered to be 3.5 ounces (or the size of a deck of cards).  Pregnant women and young children should limit the amount of fish they consume and be sure only to eat fish lower in the food chain, and subsequently, lower in mercury. Mercury has been linked to complications with brain development in unborn babies and young children.

Not a fan of fish, but interested in adding more fish to your diet?  Try a mild fish and pair liberally with fresh herbs, spices, or lemon juice to find a taste that better suits you.  White fish is generally considered to have a milder taste than darker fish.

Sampling recipes for fish tacos or adding fish to a salad of your favorite mixed vegetables might change your mind about fish.  Like every food, experimentation may lead to a new favorite recipe, rich in nutrients and flavor!

No matter how you flavor your fish, be sure to limit the amount of fried fish you add to your diet.  While you’re eating to improve your health, preparation of your food matters almost as much as what you eat!

Do you enjoy fish?  Share your tips for making fish at home in the comment section.

Lift Before Cardio or Cardio Before Lift? FitClub Breaks Down the Question for Maximum Results

Which comes first, cardio or strength training?  Consider this question the “chicken and the egg” question of fitness.  No matter what your fitness goals may be, a balanced workout consisting of both cardiovascular exercise and strength training is the key to success.  Is there an advantage to the order you choose for your complete workout?  The answer varies depending on your specific goals.blogimages_longform_strength_cardio-19_12

Even experts disagree as to which form of training to execute first.  Generally, the consensus is to strategize your workouts to reflect your priorities. Whether your priority is losing weight or building muscle, your workout should begin with the area you want (and need) the most energy to complete.

If you want to lose weight, choose cardiovascular exercise first.  Both cardiovascular exercise and weight training are crucial for losing weight.  Cardiovascular exercise allows your body to deplete its glycogen stores, or the body’s energy storage system. When glycogen is depleted, the body begins to burn stored fat as fuel, leading to the fat loss we’re all chasing. If you’re choosing cardiovascular exercise before weight training, be sure to leave yourself with enough energy to properly execute your strength training moves.  If you find that after your cardiovascular exercise, you lack the energy to maintain proper attention to detail and proper attention to form when you’re lifting, you will be better served by saving weight training for its own day in your schedule.  Lifting weights when you’re too fatigued to pay attention to your form increases your risk of injury.

If your goal is to gain muscle, then strength training should come first in your routine.  Essentially, your schedule should allow you to focus your energy first on your primary goals. Lifting after a heavy cardiovascular session may limit your ability to improve your strength and resistance training.

If you’re goal is less specific and you just want a healthier lifestyle, choose the exercise you prefer first.  Ultimately, if your goal is a lifelong fitness habit that will get you to your healthiest self, the workout you look forward to is the workout you will do. If you have a strong preference for either cardiovascular exercise or weight training, start each workout with your favorite activity.  The odds of building a lifetime of consistent exercise starts with the workout you’ll look forward to each morning.

Unless you’re training for a specific event or you have a very specific goal in mind, experimentation might lead you to the routine that works best for your body and mind.  Mixing up the order of your workout can also keep your workouts feeling fresh, rather than too routine.  Try starting in the weight room one day and the cardiovascular room the next.  You can also try one of FitClub’s group exercise classes that’s designed to raise your heart rate and increase your lean muscle. Variety not only ensures that you’re making time for both forms of exercise, but it prevents boredom and leads to more consistency, which is, ultimately, the goal we all share!

Four Reasons Working Out at FitClub Beats Working Out at Home Every Time

Fancy exercise apps for your phone, workout videos, and on-demand fitness classes may seem like a great idea, but for a consistent, durable healthy lifestyle, FitClub beats out any workout you say you’ll do at home.  FitClub has five reasons why at home workouts just don’t work out.IMG_8662

  • Distractions abound. If you’ve tried to work out at home, you have probably already experienced distractions that prevented you from finishing (or even starting) your workout.  From the load of laundry mocking you in the corner to your family interrupting with needs and demands, working out at home is often unachieveable.  How can you mentally focus on your workout when your mind is busy detailing the chores or family activities you’re not doing at that moment?  Viewing FitClub as your oasis to focus on nothing but your fitness is the key to making sure every workout is finished.
  • Analysis Paralysis. Maybe you decide that you’ll have a nice workout with one of millions of YouTube workout videos in your living room.  Analysis paralysis “is the state of over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome.” Analysis paralysis occurs when there are far too many options to choose from, resulting in laying on the couch flipping through your options instead of choosing one and making a commitment.  Instead of suffering from analysis paralysis, why not check out one of FitClub’s group exercise classes that fit your schedule and allow for variety without channel surfing.
  • Risk of injury increases when you try to workout at home. No matter how many times the television instructor tells you how to correct your form, she’s not in the room with you.  Working out with a personal trainer or experienced FitClub group exercise class instructor can minimize your risk of injuring yourself because your form is incorrect. A hands on instructor that can see you and correct your posture or form is the best way to minimize aches, pains, and more serious injuries.
  • Group exercise classes improve your results. Perhaps the most important benefit of exercise you won’t find at home in your living room is the benefit that comes from sharing the experience with others.  In a report published in the 2005 Journal of American Academy of Physician Assistants, experts recommended people work out with a partner or group to improve consistency and accountability.  Even if you find yourself working out at your own pace like in a CycleFit class, sharing the adrenaline and experience with a room full of people with shared goals and commitments can increase the mental and physical benefits of exercise.  Knowing that there are others waiting for you is a huge motivator to stay consistent, show up and keep working on your goals.

FitClub members, tell us why you prefer working out at FitClub in the comments!

Beat Cold and Flu Season by Upping Your Fitness Game

Ready to have your healthiest fall and winter yet? Prioritizing your FitClub workout may be the easiest and most effective way to stay healthy during cold and flu season. If your goal is to protect yourself or your loved ones this year, it’s possible to improve your immune system with as little as thirty minutes of exercise on a regular basis.is-exercise-good-for-the-common-cold-1440x810

How does exercise ward off illness?

A study done the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that women that regularly exercised were able to decrease their risk of colds over those that didn’t exercise at all. Exercise increases your circulation and blood flow, which means that your immune system will be functioning effectively throughout your body and be better prepared to fight of illness. As your blood circulates, the immune system’s cells are cleaning the waste and viruses throughout your body.  Just thinking of this may be enough to encourage you to get to FitClub every day!

Getting the benefit of a better immune system is easier than you might expect.

Researchers at Purdue University found that with only thirty minutes of moderate exercise three to four times each week, your immune system will be enhanced and better able to protect you against the various bacteria and viruses you may already be encountering in your day to day life.  Workouts longer than sixty minutes or workouts that are extremely vigorous, may actually weaken your immune system.  If you’re training for a grueling event like a marathon or body building competition, you can still protect your immune system by minimizing stress in other areas of your life and eating an even healthier, well-balanced diet to moderate the effects.

Studies suggest that the key to using exercise to improve your immune system is consistency.  The immune system grows strongest when exercise is a regular, consistent part of a healthy lifestyle.  That’s great news for us as we head into peak cold and flu season in Central Illinois!

Maximize your chances of staying healthy.

While you’re fitting in three to four sweat sessions each week, be sure to keep a careful eye on your diet to make sure your food is working for you! The end of summer generally leads to less fresh fruit and produce in our diets, but this is the time that your body most needs the natural nutrients and minerals found in fruits and vegetables.  Aim for five servings of fruits and vegetables each day and make sure your diet stays real and balanced this winter to further improve your immune system.  Whenever possible, eat real food, stay away from packaged junk, and eat a variety of colors with every meal.

Do you have a favorite way to ensure you stay healthy during cold and flu season?  Share it with your fellow FitClub members in the comments and let’s all have a healthy and happy fall!