Three Reasons Swimming Tops Other Exercises in Mental Health Benefits

It is well documented that aerobic exercise releases endorphins and helps to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. Did you know that swimming may be one of the most effective exercises at not only improving your physical health, but your mental health as well? The Center for Disease Control and Prevention ranks all “water- based exercises” at the top of the list of exercises known to improve mental health in both men and women.fares-underwater-myswimpro-smile

At FitClub, it’s a complete mind body wellness experience, so before you craft your next workout, lets dive into the mental health benefits unique to swimming.

  • Stretch and relaxation of muscles. Swimming requires participants to alternate between stretching a muscle (think reaching in front of you for a freestyle stroke) and relaxing that same muscle (pulling your arm back to your side).  The alternating stretching and relaxing combined with the rhythmic side to side breath mimics the practice of yoga.  Not only are you allowing yourself a great cardiovascular workout with little to no impact on your joints, but you are reaping the mental health benefits of a yoga practice at the same time.
  • Meditative Exercise. The practice of meditation is centered on focusing on and being mindful of your breath.  Swimming forces you to focus on your breath, particularly when and to which side to breathe, in a way that other cardiovascular exercise does not.

    To get the most out of the meditative experience when you swim, try repeating a simple one word mantra to yourself when you take a stroke.  A word as simple as “relax” can help you to eliminate distracting thoughts and stay fully present with your body in the water. In addition to the meditative qualities, the reduced noise and lack of complexity makes swimming a particularly good exercise for people that struggle with the anxiety of a distracted mind or for children and adults that have been diagnosed with ADHD.  ADDitude Magazine chose swimming as the exercise most beneficial to those with the diagnosis and proudly remind us all that the decorated Olympian, Michael Phelps, struggled with ADHD as a child—until he took to the water to manage his symptoms!

  • Increased blood flow to your brain. A study done by “Journal of Physiology” found that swimming or water-based exercises can increase the blood flow to your brain by up to fourteen percent.  The next time you find yourself struggling to answer a difficult question or resolve a complicated problem, try spending an hour in the pool to see whether the answer comes more easily.

FitClub’s aquatic exercise schedule makes it simple and convenient to get started with a water-based exercise program today!  Our swim lessons and water-based group exercise make this the perfect time to dive into better physical and mental health!


Why Do You Feel Bloated After a Hard Workout?

If you’ve ever experienced bloating or slight weight gain after a hard workout, you’re not alone.  As frustrating as it can be to have your pants feeling a little snug or to see the number on your scale increase slightly after you killed it during a challenging workout, it’s a completely normal and temporary reaction of your body.gettyimages-122375243-56a2b7e63df78cf772791e1a

Why it happens and what you can do.

If you’re just beginning a fitness routine or if you’ve recently made your routine more challenging, your body could be retaining water after exercise for a number of reasons.

Dehydration is the most obvious reason your body retains water.  When you sweat, you lose both water and sodium, causing your body to conserve as much water as possible to prevent dehydration.  Heat and humidity can contribute to losing excess water and sodium during your workout, so avoid outdoor exercise in the heat of the day and stay cool while you workout in FitClub’s air conditioned facilities.  Increasing your water intake before, during and after your workout should help.  If you notice that your sweat leaves white marks on your workout clothes or tastes salty, you may also want to consider adding a small snack containing salt to your pre-exercise snack.  Be mindful of your snack size and sodium content, though.  A little sodium goes a long way!

Occasional post-workout bloating may also be the result of inflammation in your body.  After a new or challenging workout, your body sends extra fluid to your tissues to help your body repair itself and rebuild muscle tears.  This is not only a natural phenomenon, but absolutely essential for improved fitness and optimum recovery.  Make sure you allow for enough recovery days and get adequate rest to help your body heal and repair quickly and efficiently without added stress or prolonged bloating.

Although bloating after a challenging workout is normal, if bloating is accompanied by pain, dizziness, fatigue, or weakness you should contact a medical professional to make sure that you’re not suffering from a medical condition.

Bloating after a tough workout may be frustrating, but it’s completely normal and temporary.  Most bloating that results from your workout will be temporary and resolve itself in two weeks as your body adapts to the added demands you place upon it.  To encourage recovery, improve your fitness, and allow your body to adapt to a more challenging program, it’s important to be consistent.

Has this ever happened to you?  What’s your response to occasional post-exercise bloating?


Does Cutting Sugar Require Cutting Fruit From Your Diet?

If your summer plans include cutting back on the sugar in your healthy diet, FitClub has great news! You don’t have to pass up the natural, delicious and fresh fruit available locally this summer!1406572032681

Sugar is blamed for a variety of problems including obesity, diabetes, inflammation and weight gain.  A diet low in processed or added sugar should be a goal we all share.  Fruit, though, is still part of a healthy, well balanced diet, even though it contains sugar.

How can that be?

The sugar in fruit is known as “fructose.” Fructose is a simple sugar, metabolized quickly by the body and unlike processed or added sugar, does not pose a health risk for active, healthy people.  Unless you have been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes, natural, whole fruit is healthy and the fructose in the fruit won’t sidetrack your healthy lifestyle.

Fruit is rich in the vitamins and minerals our bodies need to stay healthy and active.  The small amount of fructose in fruit is certainly worth the risk in order to maximize your nutrients and vitamins.  While excessive fructose is not recommended, fruit is far more filling than processed foods, making consuming excess fructose from fruit alone very difficult. For example, one apple contains 23 grams of sugar, 13 of which are classified as fructose.  By contrast, a sixteen ounce soft drink has 52 grams of sugar, 30 of which are fructose.  The apple will fill you up and provide healthy doses of vitamins, nutrients and fiber.  The soft drink won’t do any of those things.

You’re also unlikely to experience blood sugar spikes from eating fruit instead of junk foods or processed sugars.  Unlike processed or added sugars, your body digests fructose more slowly, causing it to enter your liver more slowly and at a more stable pace.

The best way to consume fruit.

Fresh, whole fruit is best and to eat the most fiber, you need to eat the skin of the fruit, as well.  Fruit juice and dried fruits, while still providing some nutrients, are not nearly as healthy as the real thing.  Fruit juice contains added sugar and refined sugar in addition to the fructose and dried fruit is also high in sugar and easy to over-consume.

If you’re partial to fruit smoothies, make sure you don’t add a fruit juice base, and instead use water, milk, low-sugar yogurt, or almond milk and always use the entire fruit so you get the most fiber possible.

Whether you’re craving something sweet this summer or just want your family to fill up on local, fresh, naturally sweet fruit, don’t forgo this sweet treat just because of the fructose content.  Fruit makes a great addition to any meal as a guilt-free dessert, especially in the summer.

How Long Does It Take to Get Results?

One of the hardest aspects of starting a healthy lifestyle, fitness program, or new way of eating is not seeing instant results.  When you were just starting, you might have found yourself stepping on the scale or looking in the mirror just days into your new routine.  The failure to see results right away is too often an excuse to give up or fail to prioritize consistency.  When you’re anxious to see results, every day you have to wait can feel like an eternity.lose-weight-mirror-waist-400x400

So how long do you have to work before you begin to see results?

  1. Healthy weight loss means losing less than two pounds per week. A slow, steady and consistent approach to healthy eating and fitness should allow for a slow, steady weight loss that’s easier to maintain for the long haul. Experts agree that to maintain good health and wellness while you strive for a healthier body, you should lose no more than two pounds each week.  That’s not to say that you won’t see changes to your body more quickly, though.  Cutting out excessive salt, sugar, and processed foods will allow your body to “de-bloat” and retain less water, resulting in your clothes fitting better.  Look for non-scale victories and progress instead of rapid results.
  2. There’s a reason it’s a slow, gradual process.When you dramatically reduce your calorie intake, your body tries to preserve itself by going into starvation mode.  Starvation mode causes your body to hold onto the few calories it has in order to keep you alive.  Weight loss slows or becomes impossible as your body flat out refuses to give up the stores it is saving for emergencies.  Instead, slowly, decrease your calorie intake while your body adapts to its new circumstances.
  3. Consistency is the key. If you’re looking for immediate results and huge scale-related victories, you’re likely to find yourself disappointed and quickly burning out. Instead, striving to make consistent, healthy food choices and workouts part of your new lifestyle and routine is the most effective way to see the results you want to see.  Reward yourself for consistency instead of waiting to see a particular number on the scale.  Look for non-scale victories every day.  Better sleep, a more positive outlook, and increased energy when completing day to day tasks are all reasons to prioritize your health.
  4. The rate at which you lose weight or gain fitness is personal. Don’t compare your gains (or losses) to your friends or family.  Age, gender, and current level of fitness all impact how quickly you see progress.  Owning your circumstances and accepting yourself where you are will allow you to have more pride in your early-stage results.
  5. Keep moving forward. Once you start to see results, no matter how small, consider increasing your intensity, repetitions, or weight load.  Your body quickly acclimatesto the demands you place upon it.  The key to seeing continued success is to keep your muscles guessing and prevent complacency.  Trying a new group exercise class or checking in with a personal trainer are good ways to mix it up and challenge yourself safely.  Complacency is the enemy of continued progress.

When did you first notice personal progress?  Share it with your fellow FitClub members in the comment section!

5 Reasons To Try FitClub’s Body Pump Class Immediately

Whether you’re new to FitClub or an experienced FitClub regular, FitClub’s Body Pump class might revolutionize the way you approach strength workouts.  Worried about stepping out of the cardio room and into a radically different group exercise experience?  Don’t be.  FitClub has five reasons you must try the Body Pump class immediately.london_bodypump_bicepcurl_-199

  1. Your body needs a change. If you’re loyal to your cardio workout, your body is missing out on the benefits that come from strength training.  Weight loss and fitness plateaus happen when our bodies acclimate to the routine we repeatedly practice.  Cardio is important for burning calories and improving your cardiovascular system’s health, but strength training is imperative for building lean muscle mass that burns more calories and improves your bone density. If you’re not balancing your workouts with adequate strength training, your body is missing out on a key element of a healthy fitness routine.
  2. Form, form, form. Even if you regularly lift weights, a Body Pump class with an instructor that stresses proper form can correct any problems with your form. Proper form is essential for avoiding injury and muscle imbalances.  Having an instructor that can correct your form in real time and call out cues when the class needs simple reminders is the key to getting the most out of your strength training workout.
  3. The regulars are a great support network. When you walk into your first Body Pump class, let someone know you’re new to the class.  You will be amazed at how quickly the experienced members jump in to help you set up your space and make recommendations and provide feedback as you go. If you’re worried about walking into a new class for the first time, let the Body Pump regulars impress you with their eagerness to make you comfortable and part of the team.  Be prepared for encouragement to come back even after your first class is over!
  4. The class is intensely personal. Don’t let your fear of whether you’re in good enough shape to participate in a Body Pump class hold you back.  Everyone is choosing their own weights for each class. You’ll be far too busy watching your form, listening to the instructor, and breaking a sweat to notice what anyone else is lifting.  Regulars to the class come from all different workout backgrounds, weight lifting experience, age and body type, but everyone shares one common goal—to make themselves stronger.
  5. The group atmosphere pushes you to go harder. If you’ve ever allowed yourself to quit on your workout when it starts to feel difficult, you’ll be surprised at how much more you might be capable of in a group exercise class like Body Pump. The hour files by, even when the reps are difficult, and you’ll feel compelled to want to stay engaged and keep up with the music and the beat of the class.  You won’t be bored, you won’t want to quit, and you’ll already be planning your next class.

Before you waste another day not knowing what your workout will be when you walk through the doors of FitClub, make it a priority to get to Body Pump.  FitClub’s schedule makes it easy to find a class that’s convenient to your schedule.  Let your fellow members know what you think about Body Pump in the comments!

Is Huffing and Puffing the Sign of a Great Workout? How Hard You Should Be Breathing and Why.

Are you supposed to be out of breath and gasping for air at the end of every workout?  Is working to the point of being out of breath the sign of a great workout or a sign you may be pushing too hard?  FitClub has 5 key facts you need to know about why we breathe hard when we exercise and what it means for your fitness gains.

  • Why it happens. As you move through your workout, everything inside you is working harder to compensate for the stress your body is enduring.  Your heart beats faster to move blood and oxygen to your muscles, your muscles use more oxygen more quickly to keep up with your movements, and your lungs work harder to move more oxygen in and push more carbon dioxide out.  Breathing quickly or feeling out of breath during your workout is the result of every muscle and your heart speeding up to meet your demands.
  • It’s normal to breathe heavier at the beginning of a hard workout. Huffing and puffing in the early minutes of your workout is normal.  Your lungs need to warm up just like your muscles and cardiovascular system.  As your body warms up, the lungs’ “accessory muscles” start to engage to assist your diaphragm and breathing may begin to feel easier.  If you find you’re breathing too hard in the early stages of an exercise to be able to stick with it for 30-60 minutes, try a more gradual warm up to allow your lungs to expand and the accessory muscles to engage before you go all out.
  • You can manage your breath, even when you’re working hard. While you exercise, you can check your posture to make sure your spine is straight and engage your diaphragm.  Attempting to breathe from your diaphragm, means taking a breath in that expands your belly, and not just your chest. Lifting your chin also allows more air to get into your airways more efficiently than staring at the ground.  Whether you’re running, lifting weights, or engaged in a yoga class, focusing on breaths that originate in your belly allows your lungs to take a more productive breath to fuel your muscles.
  • Keep at it. Some huffing and puffing is normal when you start a new exercise routine or start working harder than usual.  You can see this happening every time you try to add weight or speed to your workout. As your body grows fitter, your lungs become more efficient at delivering oxygen during the same routine that once left you doubled over gasping for air.  Staying consistent and gradually increasing the time you spend exercising or the intensity you exercise, conditions your respiratory system just like your cardiovascular system.
  • When to see a medical professional. If breathing hard during your workout causes discomfort, pain in your chest, dizziness, or any other pain or stress, you should speak to a medical professional before continuing your exercise routine.  Certain medical conditions like “warm up angina” and asthma may be making you breathe harder than is safe when exercising.

Does huffing and puffing inspire you or exasperate you?

How to Eat For Better Health

There are a lot of rules and advice for what to eat when you’re trying to live a healthier lifestyle, but did you know that how you eat matters, too?

  1. Eat more slowly. People that eat more quickly tend to be heavier than those that eat meals more slowly.  Your body releases hormones that act as cues telling you when to eat (ghrelin), and when to stop eating (cholecystokinin, peptide YY, and peptide-1). The latter hormones tell your brain you’ve eaten and no more food is needed.  The release of the hormones and cue to the brain is a process that can take up to twenty minutes.  Slowing down to enjoy your meal also allows your hormones to reach your brain before you overeat and consume more calories than your body needs.  The next time you enjoy a meal, practice setting your fork down between bites, really chewing your food, and taking a drink of water frequently during your meal.mindfulness-website-eating
  2. Eat more mindfully. Eating mindfully requires you to do nothing more than just pay attention to the food you are eating.  Consider why you are eating the food you are eating.  Are you stressed and reaching for junk food?  Sad or depressed and craving a less-than-healthy comfort food?  Once you start asking yourself why you’re eating what you’re eating, it becomes easier to recognize bad habits and opt for better decisions.
  3. Eliminate distractions. Restaurants notoriously have televisions in every corner, loud music, or games on the tables.  The more distractions available, the more likely you are to overeat and drink, even when you had planned on a healthy dinner.  Even at home, the television or your phone can be a huge distraction that leads you to mindlessly reach for another handful of chips, or go back for seconds while you’re too distracted to pay attention to your portions.  Turn off the television, put down the phone, and take the time to eat and enjoy your food.  The more checked in you are with your meal, the less likely you’ll be to ignore that anti-hunger hormone as soon as it is released.
  4. Break the habit of eating out of boredom. If you eat when you’re bored, rather than hungry, you’re certainly not alone.  Whether boredom tends to occur for you during the work day or while you’re at home, stop yourself from heading to the vending machine or reaching for a snack. Instead, be creative.  Can you call up a friend? Step away from your desk and take a fifteen minute walk outside?  Check the FitClub schedule for your favorite group class?  If you can wait even a few minutes and distract yourself with something more interesting than another snack because you’re bored, you’ll find it easier to distinguish boredom from hunger.

How do you eat for better health?