Cool happenings: HealthFit’s old but popular post about making your own weights for home workouts has been picked up and included in a list at Greatist. It’s very exciting to be included! Especially since there’s some very cool stuff on there. Can you find us?
Many of us are still in the process of finding a home workout routine in these anything but routine days. But this really can be a silver lining: Working out at home is the ultimate in convenience. Who doesn’t like having one less stop to make during a busy day (or one less reason to go outside, right now). One of the main reasons that people don’t do more home workouts is that they don’t have the equipment to they think they need. As it turns out, you need less than you think, and you can make a lot of what you do need. Mostly all you need is a bit of creativity – and now all you have to do is follow directions!
Greatist has a bit of a different take on “how to get fit” – but then, so do we! Their articles target somewhat of a younger crowd, meaning their approach isn’t always suitable for everyone, so use your best judgement. They have a flexible take on health, fitness, and nutrition that I really like, which can be a good starting point for your own ideas. I would normally suggest checking it out on your commute… but maybe check it out with your new non-commute time instead!
I’ve noticed a trend in the health and fitness industry, and I bet you have too:
Long waits, and short appointments.
This actually is tough on everyone involved in the process: your health care team, including doctors, medical staff, and allied health practitioners, and of course, YOU.
Part of my success has stemmed from my willingness and ability to take plenty of time to get to know you, your body, what you want and need, and importantly, what a realistic program for achieving this looks like. This is a departure from the rapid turn-around times that are rapidly becoming the norm in health care (and is one of the reasons I really like being the boss!).
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not faulting the medical or allied health community at large. These people got into their work to help others, just like I have. They are often working within larger systems and sometimes under constraints that demand high patient volumes and ever-shortening appointment times. Couple this with the time it takes to clearly explain the basics of any given health condition, sometimes numerous treatment options, potential outcomes and side effects, and it’s no wonder that many patients are confused about what’s going on in their bodies. It’s not an outcome anyone is looking for.
Since I have the luxury of time, I want to use it. My goal for each patient I see is that I give them the gold standard of health care: A patient-centred approach. This means making sure I realllllly understand you. As well providing you with the best exercise and nutrition programs, I want to get what’s important to you, what your priorities are, and what achieving your goals will actually mean for your quality of life. After all, what’s the point of dieting so strictly that you miss out on your kid’s birthday party (or are too grumpy to enjoy it!)??
It also means taking the time to make sure YOU understand what you’re dealing with. I want you to understand what’s going on with your body, how your program will help, and what this means for your quality of life. In understanding your body and how it’s working, you’ll be able to more easily make informed decisions about your health care and fitness. My ultimate goal is that you are comfortable with, and confident in, your own approach to living a healthy life.
In treating you like family, I mean that I’m driven to give the same care and kindness that I want my mother to be treated with. There’s no yelling, no guilt, and no expectations other than what you’ve set for yourself. You’ll get all the time you need to understand your body and how to help it work better, and support to help you fit your new healthy habits into your lifestyle. Really, it’s all about making your program work for you, and feeling great because of it!
Sleeping well is the most underrated and overlooked thing you can do for your health and fitness. Not only does a good night’s sleep help you feel better and get through your day more easily, it also keeps your body systems ticking along in tip top shape.
According to Sleep: A Health Imperative, published in the journal Sleep, 37.1% of American adults experiencing inadequate sleep; the number of Australian adults is similar at 39.8%, according to a report commissioned by the Australian Sleep Health Foundation.
That’s a lot of people not sleeping well, or enough. And as long as daily functioning isn’t impacted, why not spend more time on work and play? Well, because eventually sleep deficits can catch up to you. And it’s not just feeling it (things like simple tiredness, poor daytime function, and microsleeps) — it’s also your health.
Most research shows that 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night is what will keep you healthy. Less than 6 hours per night will drive a cumulative sleep deficit that stresses cells and changes how the brain (and therefore the body) functions. In turn, this changes the way your metabolism, immune system, and nervous system work. This sets the stage for:
Increased risk of hypertension (high blood pressure), coronary heart disease, and possibly stroke.
Increased risk of obesity, possibly due to changes in hormonal control of hunger signals, as well as decreased glucose tolerance and development of type 2 diabetes.
Increased risk of numerous types of cancer, including break, colon or colorectal, and prostate, which may be linked to an overall increase in cell damage throughout the body.
Ok, so it’s not good for you – you know that. Does that mean it’s time to make an appointment to see the doc for some sleeping tablets?
Nah. For most of us, good sleep is a matter of making some easy lifestyle adjustments. Start with the easiest and work your way through the list as you can or need to. Everything you do will help!
Make your room dark. Blackout blinds will limit light from outside. Inside the room, minimize any lights (from electronics or other devices), and a trusty eye mask will help if your partner insists on reading in bed.
Keep your room cool. Research suggests that optimal room temperatures range from 16-18°C, or 60-67°F, since that’s neither too cold (keeping you from falling asleep), nor too warm (causing restless sleep).
Make your bed comfortable. Find a mattress that gives you enough space, support, and comfort. The best mattress and pillow will allow you to stay in good posture while you sleep: with your head, neck, and spine in alignment. A mattress that is too soft will cause you to slouch, and a mattress that is too firm will put pressure on contact points like hips or shoulders. Pillows should allow your head and neck to stay in a straight(ish) line with your spine in your preferred sleeping position.
Make your room quiet. Loud or unusual noises will disturb your sleep, which you probably already know! If you live somewhere where this is common, using a white noise player (via specialized machines or simply any number of Youtube tracks) can help mask outside noises and lull you to sleep.
Develop a bedtime routine. When you create a routine around the tasks of going to bed, it helps your brain recognize that it’s time to wind down. This makes it easier to fall asleep, especially if your routine is a relaxing one.
Make your room a haven. Bedrooms should not be multi-purpose rooms; sleep scientists recommend only using your bedroom for sleep and sex. Choose paint, sheets, curtains or blinds, and other decor that you love, and going to sleep will be the best part of your day!
Working out: If you’re not in the habit, it’s not always fun to get started. Good news though! Lots of everyday activities, hobbies, and recreation can count as physical activity, which has a big impact on maintaining good cardiovascular and metabolic health, prevents and helps manage joint pains, and can help with weight loss or management, if that’s your goal. You might not get 100% of the physical benefits that a big gym session would provide, but as it turns out, it’s the small amounts of day-to-day movement that are really important, so get moving!
Incidental Exercise At Home
Vacuuming and mopping: Push, pull, push, pull – it’ll get your heart rate up. Bonus points: Swap arms halfway through to help maintain balance in left side-right side movement ability. If your back gets sore, stop, place your hands on the back of your hips, soften your knees and gently extend your back to bend backwards.
Window Washing: Will have you moving your shoulders and arms in a low-stress way you’re not used to, which is great for reducing injury risk and maintaining joint mobility. Aim to swap arms frequently to help maintain left side-right side balance (see above).
Gardening / Yard work: The most common heavy lifting of around-the-house exercise. May including lifting, carrying, and placing heavy objects, reaching or stepping in movements that are less common, and generally being on your feet all day. Like vacuuming, if you’re finding you’re stuck in a single position for a longer period, stop and give your body a break by doing the opposite of that movement.
Washing the car: Reaching, stretching, and squatting down. Keeps you moving!
Playing with the kids: Might involve running around after them – good cardio. Might involve getting down and up off the floor – good joint mobility. Might involve staying down on the floor – good opportunity to give the hips a little bit of a stretch.
Carrying kids around: Even small kids get heavy pretty quickly! Carrying the kids around adds to the cardio effect of walking and moving around, but it also create poor posture as you shift your torso and hips to carry more comfortably. Make sure you swap sides, because your body does best with equal stress and effort.
DIY home maintenance: The other heavy lifting you might do around the house, DIY work often has you moving into different positions that you might during the course of a normal day. Moving through different positions is great for maintaining flexibility and joint health, and can keep posture good and pain at bay.
Incidental Exercise At The Office
If you have an office job, you know how challenging it can be to maintain any amount of movement. Haven’t we all looked up from email to realize that we haven’t moved in three hours?
Getting coffee: Adds steps to your daily step count. Two bonuses on this: Coffee (or tea, or your beverage of choice) does actually count towards your daily hydration goals. (Even though it has a mild diuretic effect, you drink more liquid than you’ll excrete.) More hydration means more bathroom breaks, and therefore even more steps.
Fidgeting: The subconscious movement that your parents might have scolded you for actually burns calories. It will not amount to much extra, but it does count.
Taking the stairs: One of the most bang-for-buck activities you can do, as it gets your heart rate high and gives the big muscles in your legs a bit of a workout. Pro tip – Minimize knee pain risk by stepping with as much of your foot on the stair as you can.
Standing around, i.e. Serving customers, using a standing desk: Simply maintaining a standing position takes almost twice as much energy as sitting does, and can reduce stress and strain on through the front of the hips and the lower back. All standing, all the time has it’s own set of problems though, so your best bet is to alternate postures.
Get away from the desk, i.e. make your own copies, have face to face conversations: More steps, more steps, more steps. Plus, in-person conversations can be just as fast as email (and sometimes a lot clearer!).
Incidental Exercise Out and About
Going out and doing stuff makes a big difference to your levels of physical health and fitness. Why spend your free time sitting around?
Grocery shopping: Again, more steps. Walking is good! Bonus: If you’re not getting much, use a hand basket and carry your groceries for some added strength training. This goes for any sort of shopping, really.
Riding a bike: You don’t have to ride like you’re on the Tour de France to get some good for your body. Go for a cruise to help keep your legs strong and get some cardiovascular work in.
Hiking: A great way to gently challenge your joints and muscles, since the paths aren’t even and smooth. Being out in nature is an amazing way to boost your happiness quotient too.
Going for a walk: Doesn’t have to be fast, or far. There’s something about the rhythmic nature of aerobic exercise that makes it a meditation in movement, so you get some de-stress time as well as some gentle cardio work.
Playing in the pool: Fun! The pressure from the water gives your body something to work against, but it’s not so much resistance that it actually seems like work. Explains why you’re always more tired than you expect when you jump out.
Backyard games: Play with the kids. Set up teams for horseshoes or a beanbag toss. An easy game of touch football. Keep yourself on your feet and moving as much as you can. Your engagement will increase your enjoyment!
So, what can you plan into your day tomorrow to boost your movement time?
It seems like there’s always a diet going around that promotes itself as the best way to lose weight, or to detox for health and more energy, or… something.
Actually, at any given time, there are always several diets claiming to be THE right way to eat. Diet plans like keto, paleo, the alkaline diet, or Whole30 are way more varied than the old school grapefruit-type diets. They are usually based around a single simple guideline, with expected results including anything from fat loss and revved metabolism to decreased inflammation, improved gut health, and overall better health.
Many of these diets can provide health benefits or support weight loss, and providing a single guideline to follow often makes it easier to stick with the plan. But the simplicity can also create complications. Dietary limitations can inadvertently decrease the intake of some essential nutrients, or allow excessive intake of others. Depending on your body’s specific needs, these diets can actually backfire – even if you see short term results.
Taking a smart approach to a new diet includes figuring out whether it’s a fad or there are established, science-based benefits. If the diet falls into the second category, you also need to figure out whether the diet will be good for you.
Is It A Fad Diet or a Fact?
There are fad diets, and fad diets – some are worse for your health than others. You can generally tell if a new diet is going to be an unhealthy fad if:
It promises dramatic, fast, extraordinary results.
My momma always told me: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The truth is, if there an easy, healthy, surefire way of eating that was sustainable over the long term, no one would need a diet for weight loss or any other health reasons. While it’s tempting to think of quickly reaching your goal weight with either little effort or lots,
It centers on, or cuts out, a single type of food.
Whether suggesting you always eat it or never eat it, any diet that is wholly focused on a single type of food can lead to health problems. This single focus may mean missing out on essential nutrients, or especially if maintained over time:
Low carb diets (Atkins, Keto) focus on higher protein and fat intakes. High levels of some dietary fats are associated with higher levels of heart disease, and high protein diets can be harmful to people with kidney disease, diabetes, and other health conditions (though it’s important to note that for most health people, a high protein diet isn’t harmful).
Cutting out entire food groups can lead to the same problems: missing out on key nutrients. For example, many vegetarians become anemic because they do not eat red meat, one of the highest sources of dietary iron.
It lacks high-quality scientific evidence. Ok, most people aren’t going to go and read the original research – and that’s assuming there is some! Many diets have little or no scientific backing. It’s also not uncommon to find that the existing studies present only weak proof, or have been funded by the companies whose products are being researched. Human nature makes it hard to be impartial in these cases!
Most people will not have access to the majority of research, or may not want to wade through the scientific jargon and statistics. You’re best bet to get simple, straight answers about whether a diet has scientifically been proven effective will be to speak to a registered dietitian.
Dieting For Your Body
The other benefit of discussing a new diet with a registered dietitian is that they can help determine if a given diet will meet your specific needs. This is especially important in certain circumstances:
If you have an ongoing or chronic health condition. Some foods or food types may worsen health conditions. It can also be a good idea to check with your doctor if you are at high risk for a health condition or have a family history.
If you have specific physical needs. The most common example: People who exercise a lot or at high intensities have different dietary needs than those who exercise moderately or not at all. Additionally, some medical conditions require closely controlled diets in order to maintain normal physical function.
If you want to make a significant change to your eating habits. People aren’t always aware of nutrient deficiencies or potential risks caused by a high nutrient intake. Jumping into big dietary changes may inadvertently increase health risks, even if you’re trying to do the right thing by your body. So do the right thing by your body and chat to your doctor before making big changes.
The Real Winner
In the end, the best diet comes down to the diet that works for you.
That means one that helps you feel and look the way you really want to, and that your body thrives on. Many of the most popular diets may not be harmful over a short period of time, but the existing research has generally shown that they aren’t much more effective than a general plan of healthy eating and most people end up regaining the weight they lost once back into their regular eating patterns.
Given all this, it seems like the real winner might be making fresh choices. Eat lots of fruit and vegetables. Eat lean proteins (poultry, fish, lean red meat, eggs, and dairy). Eat your healthy fats in small doses (nuts and seeds, avocado, olive and flax oils, just to name a few). Eat less than you think you might need. And enjoy it!
Want to drink more water? We all have the best intentions when it comes to staying hydrated, but for such a simple task, it can still be tough to keep up with. It doesn’t have to be though. Try one of two of these simple options and keep your body happy.
Start The Day Right
Are you a coffee or tea drinker? (I am a coffee drinker. A lot of coffee.) While you’re waiting for the kettle to boil or the coffee to brew, get yourself a glass of water. Drink at least some of it while you wait. Make it interesting if you want: I drink mine warm, sometimes with lemon. I hear I’m weird like that.
Use A Straw
For whatever reason, it’s way easier and faster to drink a lot of water (or anything) through a straw. Invest in a plastic tumbler with a straw and keep it full and nearby. You’ll be amazing how often you’ll need to fill it up. Bonus: Most of those cups are double walled, so your cold drinks stay cold.
Stick With Small Glasses
Think a bigger glass will help you drink more? Well, it might, but it also might not. One of the biggest truths in the health and fitness industry: Success breeds success. Drink one small glass and it’s easier to drink another. Drink several glasses today, and you’ll be more likely to tomorrow. String together a few days and you’re well on your way to a great habit.
Looking for practical ways to improve your health and fitness? Four weeks can change your next forty years. Spend some time with a HealthFit health coach and find out just how healthy you can get. Find out more.
You’re looking for someone to care about you, enough so that they want the best for you.
Could be dating, could be finding a new healthcare provider. Whether going well or not, these two situations have a lot of similarities. They boil down to some base questions:
Are you meeting the right kind of person?
In dating, you want to meet someone that you have something in common with.
In healthcare, you want to meet a provider that has training “in common” with your condition. A doctor for illnesses, a dietician for nutritional advice, a massage therapist and exercise physiologist for muscle imbalance and injury prevention – the list could go on and on.
Are you meeting them at the right time?
I recently had a client come in with debilitating back pain. She could hardly move. She’d already been to the physiotherapist, who had given her some exercises to increase her core strength (the right solution, long term)… that she couldn’t do, because she could hardly move. What she needed was the right type of healthcare for her present condition – in this case, remedial massage to relieve the muscle spasm and allow the exercises to work. For the most effective and efficient outcome, you need the right healthcare at the right time.
Do you like them?
In healthcare and dating, there are many fish in the sea. Your doctor, exercise physiologist, dietician, remedial massage therapist, physiotherapist, etc. has approximately the same training as all the others in their field. But, as with dating, just because a person meets basic criteria doesn’t mean that you have to stick with them. Better healthcare happens when you have good communication, and good communication happens when you connect with people. Look for someone who listens to you, asks good questions about how you feel, wants your input, looks to make you a part of the solution, and is nice to you!
(And just like dating, when you find a good one, hang onto them!)
With the popularity of high intensity workouts like Crossfit, F45, or bootcamps, it might seem like going for a walk isn’t much of a workout at all. If you’re looking to increase your fitness and improve your health, is it worth your time?
Actually, yes – especially if you are interested in health benefits more than getting lean and ripped.
Going for a brisk walk is moderate intensity exercise for most people, and can even count as vigorous exercise if you aren’t normally active. A meta-analysis (a research paper pooling and organizing other research to better understand and apply results) reviewing 32 studies has shown that a brisk walk at least a few times per week will improve your health. Significant improvements in aerobic fitness were found, as well as decreased BMI, body weight, body fat percentage, and measurements of waist circumference – all of which are strongly linked to high risk of cardiovascular disease. Blood pressure also showed a significant decrease following a program of regular walking.
The benefits of weight loss and lower body fat are well-discussed: Decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic health conditions. But those are things that may or may not happen in the future. What about right now?
While the health and fitness improvements found in the reviewed studies weren’t so great that the participants ended up with six-pack abs, the average increase in fitness was about 10%. This is enough to make a noticeable difference in how easily you can manage to do daily tasks, or how much energy and stamina you might have to get through a busy day. This means that by the time you get to kick back and watch some TV before heading to bed, you’ll actually get to watch the entire episode of your favorite show, rather than falling asleep on the sofa. Overall, better fitness means more energy for the day to day things that matter to you, which in turn means a better quality of life.
These benefits improvements took place in as little as eight weeks of regular walking, with the most people in the studies walking 30 minutes, three to five times per week as part of an organized program. You don’t have to “start exercising” to make walking worthwhile though. A few 8-10 minute walks per day can give the same benefits as a single 30-minute session, which in real life might mean walking around the block in the morning and evening. (An additional benefit of “starting small” is that often you just need a nudge to get going. It’s easy to extend once you’ve gotten out the door – or onto the treadmill.)
Lastly, it’s helpful to remember that health and fitness improvements aren’t all-or-nothing. Instead, they happen on a continuum, and in fact any movement has a positive impact on your fitness levels and health risks, and therefore your quality of life. It doesn’t have to be high intensity to be worthwhile; your own brisk walking pace will be just fine. So whether you have five minutes to spare, or fifty, it’s all worth doing – what are you waiting for?
Murtagh, E. M., Nichols, L., Mohammed, M. A., Holder, R., Nevill, A. M., & Murphy, M. H. (2015). The effect of walking on risk factors for cardiovascular disease: An updated systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised control trials. Preventive Medicine,72, 34-43. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.12.041
Want to know the biggest secret about my life as a health coach/exercise physiologist/personal trainer?
I’m just a normal person.
I like all types of fried potatoes, working out is sometimes more effort than it seems like it’s worth, and I definitely do not have a six-pack. I’ve been through periods of being super active and fit, and periods of being super lazy, and while I much prefer feeling and being super fit and healthy, I frequently struggle to make the time for it.
It’s called real life – as least, it is for most of us. There are great trainers out there who are able to juggle big workouts, prepping and eating routine meals, making their body their whole focus – Awesome for them. I’ll even admit that I’ve more than a little jealous. I had that for a few years and it was great, but it was also when I was in college with the luxury of plenty of time to spend on it.
In the years since, I’ve stopped beating myself up over NOT doing all those things. I’ve found my balance between eating healthy and really enjoying my meals, between being fit and being out of shape (though I often sit slightly below my ideal fitness level). These days, my ultimate goal is to strike that balance between making my entire life about my body, fitness and health, and being able to enjoy what life has to offer.
So, my big secrets?
My fitness levels fluctuate A LOT and I have to really work for what I have. My biggest challenge is balancing my time between every life demand in a way that I’m happy with (or at least can live with). Sometimes workouts lose out.
I love eating. LOVE IT. I love movie popcorn and giant salads and everything in between. Portion control is my nemesis.
I struggle to make myself a priority. I spend all day every day talking to people about taking care of themselves. I’m the worst at taking my own advice!
Stress-eating: Ugh, yes, that’s me.
I would much rather watch Netflix than go to the gym. (Though as with most people, I get a lot more satisfaction from going to the gym, once it’s all said and done.)
I may or may not read on my phone every night in bed, even though I know all the science says it’s bad for your sleep. Oops.
The point is, this is real life. We can have all the education and experience in the world – I’m not short on either and definitely know better – and making the best choices is still challenging. I live those choices day in and day out, just like everyone else. But these days I’m ok with those challenges. They are a lot easier now that I’ve learned to make life about habits and choices I enjoy, rather than choices that feel like chores that I should or have to do. I’ve found my balance between the effort I’m happy to make, and the results I’m happy to have. I’m launching this new section, The Secret Life Of A Health Coach: Food and Fitness in Real Life, to share what those choices look like for me, and to give you some ideas and support in finding your own balance.
The short answer: Functional training is exercise that mimics and prepares you for the movements you make in everyday life.
The longer answer: Will depend on who you talk to! Functional training can have as many definitions as there are trainers.
In exercise science, functional training refers to an exercise or training program that will keep you physically capable of meeting the demands of daily life. Programs are designed around your day to day activities and include exercises that develop strength, endurance, and mobility in the same movement patterns that your daily activities use. As an exercise physiologist, I see functional training programs as those meeting your physical needs, whatever they are, which of course leaves a lot of room for variation. For instance, the program for an avid runner might include specific exercises to increase running speed, or to help the body better absorb impact. A program for a stay-at-home parent with young kids might be focused on maintaining good hip mobility to help with getting down and up off the floor, and on building upper back strength and core strength to help balance out the changes in posture that happen when you carry kids around. In other words, true functional training is really specific to YOU.
How does this mesh with functional training programs provided by different gyms and personal trainers?
Functional has been a fitness industry buzzword for a while now, but it’s often not clear what you might get in any given functional workout. Early functional training programs were focused on neuromuscular training exercises, generally involving moving with your eyes closed or balancing on a stability ball to challenge balance or reaction times. One might think of this training as developing the finer points of physical coordination and movement.
More recently, Crossfit and other fitness and training companies like F45 have grabbed onto the “functional” term, though these workouts have moved far away from challenging the finer points of movement. I’d argue that this current crop of functional training providers actually provide cross-training, as the workouts are changed on a daily basis with an emphasis on developing a broad base in strength, power, and cardiovascular endurance. These are all elements of fitness that are needed for high quality functional movement and for good health in general.
When I compare them to the movements of daily life though, I find them somewhat lacking – from a true functional perspective. Heavy squats, battle ropes, box jumps, chin-ups, sprints, and other exercises are common components of these workouts. But when in day to day life do you find yourself needing to jump up onto something as high as your knees?
How much do the differences between functional personal training or gym programs and other functional programs really matter?
They might not matter at all. It really depends on how much you feel like you need a specific, individualized exercise plan. Some people will be fine with the generalized, cross-training style “functional” training, namely those who already have a moderate level of fitness and good movement control. True functional training provided by an exercise physiologist or a personal trainer with significant additional training in movement assessment and movement quality is the right choice for you if you:
Are starting physical activity or exercise for the first time, or after a long period off
Have a history of joint pain or injury
Have a long-term health condition, especially if this impacts your movement ability and physical capacity
Want to refine your movement technique to prevent injury and maximize progress
You will always be the best judge of what will work best for your lifestyle and your body. If you want to focus on functional training that supports your everyday activities, think about what movements are required, and look for exercises (or professional guidance) that will help you replicate those movements with just a little more intensity.
HealthFit Coaching provides in-home personal training and exercise physiology in Brisbane. HealthFit Coaches specialize in providing individualised functional training for general fitness and long-term health conditions. Contact HealthFit now for an obligation-free phone call to find out how we can help you be healthy, fit, and happy.