April Exercise of the Month
Step Up: High Knee to Rear Lunge
How to do it (see images below):
- Stand with your right foot placed firmly on a step/bench, knee bent. Stretch your left leg back into a lunge position
- Lift your arms straight overhead
- In one motion, pull your left knee up and your arms down, contracting your core. Reach your left foot back behind you into the lunge and raise your arms back up overhead
- Perform 15-30 reps, then switch sides
Primary movers: Glutes, Quads, Core
April Fitness Tip
Exercise for Mental Fitness
Many people are familiar with the physical benefits of exercise. Whether you exercise to control weight, prevent disease, look fitter or increase your energy levels, everyone can benefit.
Engaging in an exercise program can also improve your sleep, improve your sex life and add fun to your life, but that’s not all. Exercise can also have a great impact on your mental health.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (www.CDC.gov) reports the following about mental health:
- An estimated 1 out of 10 US adults reports feeling depressed
- Millions of Americans are affected by anxiety disorders
- Studies show that exercise can significantly reduce stress, anxiety and feelings of depression
Why is exercise so good for mental health?
- Exercise helps to improve self esteem, cognition and intelligence.
- Exercise stimulates synapses that connect neurons- the more synaptic connections the better your brain functions.
- Exercise improves concentration.
- It causes the body to produce endorphins- chemicals in the brain that promote a sense of well-being. When endorphins are released, the body feels better along with the mind.
- Exercise increases body temperature, resulting in a calming effect and a significantly improved mood!
How much exercise do you need to experience benefits?
- Studies show doing exercise for at least 30 minutes, 3 to 5 times a week will help improve depression symptoms.
- Even 10-15 minutes of activity can benefit the brain. A short, brisk walk can make a difference!
How to get started?
- Find something you enjoy doing like dancing, cycling, running, or any other activity that will keep you motivated.
- Once you find your activity, set a goal for yourself. It can be to prepare for a 5k walk/run or doing that activity for 5 minutes each day.
- The point is that moving more often will feed your brain! Take small steps to keep moving forward, and if you experience setbacks, then scale back instead of giving up. Your mental fitness is a crucial for your overall wellbeing.
Other useful resources:
April Nutrition Tip
The Food & Mood Relationship
Let’s face it – when we have had a bad day, a common practice is to turn toward our comfort food of choice. It’s a typical response that oftentimes stems from childhood when food was given to us to heal physical or emotional pain.
But, in our society of overconsumption, poor nutritional choices and oversized portions, comfort eating can lead to excess pounds. The relationship between food and mood is evolving, but mounting evidence indicates that dietary choices bring about changes in our brain structure, chemically and physiologically, which can alter behavior.
Nutrition experts agree that the food/mood relationship is a 2-way street; not only does food affect our mood, our mood affects the food we choose. So, it behooves us to practice a mood-management eating plan that focuses on stabilizing blood sugar through a balanced diet; i.e., eating a balance of protein, carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, and limiting sugar, fat, and alcohol.
The effect Carbohydrates, Proteins, and Fats have on our mood
- Carbohydrates: The connection between carbohydrates and mood stems largely from Tryptophan a nonessential amino acid within carbohydrates. As more Tryptophan enters the brain, it is converted to Serotonin – a neurotransmitter known as a mood regulator that produces a calming effect – and mood tends to improve.
- Proteins: Protein foods contain the amino acid Tyrosine, which the brain converts to Dopamine. Dopamine has the effect of sharpening your mental processes and giving you energy.
- Carbohydrates + Protein: If you combine protein with carbohydrates, insulin production will prevent the Tyrosine from getting to your brain first which may cause a feeling of sluggishness due to the competition between the amino acids.
- Fats: Fat helps to stabilize insulin levels that may spike from carbohydrates. Bonus: At 9 calories per gram it is satiating, so you feel full longer!
Prevent the “go-to” comfort food response:
- Don’t skip meals. Doing so lowers blood sugar levels which can affect your mood and behavior. Keep a stash of nuts or trail mix or something handy.
- Eat Breakfast
By Jane Macintosh, MA, CNS
April Wellness Tip
Connect with Family & Friends - Just What the Doctor Ordered
With today’s handy mobile devices and social media networks, connecting with others is becoming easier to do and enhancing our well-being. Translated, this means we’re feeling good about ourselves and the world around us – aka, enjoying life!
When we connect with others in a positive way, reactions take place between our minds and bodies. Our physiology reacts to what our eyes are seeing, our ears are hearing, and our heart is feeling, prompting our minds to produce positive thoughts and feelings based on these positive bodily experiences.
This is also works in the reverse direction: when the mind thinks positive thoughts, our physiology responds with less tension, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and “feel-good” hormones.
The benefits of connecting with others include:
- A heightened sense of well-being
- A high level of bodily functioning
- Increased feelings of happiness, security, confidence
- Increased emotional health through sharing with others
- Increased sense of self-worth and purpose
Ways to connect:
- Take time to give time: Take five minutes or fifty- depending on your schedule- and give your full attention to someone you care about. It’s a meaningful (and free) gift you can give.
- Quality time: Arrange to spend time sharing experiences with people you care about. You’ll create memories in the process!
- Turn it off: Switch off the digital displays and play a game with the children, or just catch up with one another.
- Make someone’s day: Smile or wave at someone whether you know them or not. It may just be what they need and it costs you nothing except a little courage!
- Reach out and touch someone: Visit a friend or family member who needs support or company.
- Lend a helping hand: Volunteer in your community or participate in local events. You’ll help those around you and expand your connections.
Social networks are not just about the influence others have on us, but also about the effects we have on others! Get connected today!