Is Stress Negatively Affecting Your Weight?

Is Stress Negatively Affecting Your Weight?

Stress and cortisol. They seem to go hand in hand. Why? Well, cortisol, typically known as the “stress hormone” is released when our bodies go into a state of fight-or-flight. This response can also result from physical or psychological stress. When our bodies are experiencing a stressor, our adrenal glands, located above the kidneys, discharge cortisol. Cortisol floods our bodies with glucose, giving our bodies an immediate source of energy.

That doesn’t seem too bad, does it? It’s just energy after all.

The problem is, under constant stress our bodies can start elevating cortisol levels. This results in glucose being consistently pumped throughout our bodies, which can lead to increased blood sugar levels.1 If you’ve ever found yourself wondering why you’re not losing that stubborn belly fat, your cortisol levels could be a contributing factor because “cortisol can mobilize triglycerides from storage and relocate them to visceral fat cells (those under the muscle, deep in the abdomen).”2 That stored fat hiding under muscle is what causes stubborn belly fat.

But, before giving cortisol a bad name, remember that it’s there for a reason. Proper levels of cortisol can help regulate blood pressure, assist with anti-inflammatory responses, help with blood sugar maintenance, and aid in proper glucose metabolism and proper immune function.3 All-in-all, that pesky little stress hormone on its own isn’t all that bad and other factors can play a part in stress and weight gain.

Outside factors can also play a part in weight gain. Working long hours, having a busy schedule, and rushing from one appointment to another can limit the amount of time you have to exercise, which is needed to help boost health. Aside from not exercising, if you’re stressed and always in a rush, chances are you’re opting for more fast food choices. When you’re not the one preparing your meal, you’re not in control of what’s going in it. Fast food can generally be both high in sugars and fats, so opt for at-home dining to prevent weight gain.

Helpful Ways to Combat Stress

The Mayo Clinic suggests the following strategies to help with stress management4:

  • Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise and plenty of sleep
  • Practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing, getting a massage or meditating
  • Taking time for hobbies, such as reading a book or listening to music
  • Fostering healthy friendships
  • Having a sense of humor
  • Volunteering in your community
  • Seeking professional counseling when needed
There is no secret way to live a stress-free life. Stress is simply a part of it, but it doesn’t have to be the whole of it. Learn and practice healthy ways to manage your stress, and you may notice less of a struggle with your overall health and weight. If you still feel like extra assistance is needed to help you achieve your ideal body weight or if your stress levels feel unmanageable, speak with your physician or another medical professional and see if there may be additional or alternative solutions that would work best for you.

Sources:

  1. Aronson, Dina, MS, RD. “Cortisol – Its Role in Stress, Inflammation, and Indications for Diet Therapy.” Editorial. Today’s Dietitian Nov. 2009: 38. Today’s Dietitian. Web. 29 June 2017.
  2. Ibid
  3. Elizabeth Scott, MS | Reviewed by a Board-certified Physician. “What You Need to Know About the Stress Hormone.” Verywell. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 June 2017.
  4. “Chronic Stress Puts Your Health at Risk.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 21 Apr. 2016. Web. 29 June 2017.

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The Happiness Factor: How Happiness Affects Health

The Happiness Factor: How Happiness Affects Health

Are you happy?

Believe it or not, happiness may help improve your health and extend your life.

The correlation between happiness and health is significant in many ways. Studies have shown that it’s not just necessarily adopting the attitude of ‘don’t worry, be happy’ that helps promote better health.  Rather, those who display certain “positive psychological attributes, such as happiness, optimism and life satisfaction,”1 may have an easier time maintaining healthy habits. Some examples include eating a well-balanced diet, exercising and getting adequate rest.

“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.”

Jim Rohn

American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker

You may find yourself thinking, that sounds great, but some people are just naturally happy – what about the rest of us? If you find that you’re not as naturally inclined to happiness as others, you may not be entirely wrong. Dr. Laura Kubzansky, professor of social and behavioral sciences at Harvard University, suggests that certain psychological states such as anxiety or depression—or happiness and optimism—are forged by both nature and nurture. These traits are 40-50% heritable, which means that certain individuals may indeed be born with a genetic predisposition toward them. However, the amazing part about those numbers is that it leaves a lot of room to maneuver.2 In other words, there is still an opportunity to truly be happy even if you aren’t genetically predisposed to be.

While happiness varies from person to person, the following are some methods that may help increase an individual’s sense of happiness, contentment and overall sense of well-being:

  1. Live in the moment.
  2. Spread kindness.
  3. Smile.
  4. Engage in a physical activity.
  5. Accomplish something.

“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”

Omar Khayyam

Poet

Living in the moment is one of the most important things to remember if you want to choose a life of happiness. Being present and not allowing your mind to wander off and worry about future stresses may help ease anxiety and help you better appreciate the now. Another factor that can help promote happiness is spreading kindness. If you do something good for others, it may help you feel good inside. Smiling can also help promote a sense of cheer by activating muscles that can actually trick your brain into thinking you are happy. In addition to smiling, engaging in a multitude of physical activities, like swimming laps, going for a run, enjoying a hike, or playing a game of racquetball, could help make us feel happier, because different forms of exercise aid in the production of feel-good hormones, like serotonin and dopamine.

Lastly, accomplish something. This is vital. Accomplishing a task or goal of any sort, large or small—like going to the gym 3 days in a row, or crossing off everything on your to-do list—can make us feel good inside. According to Psychology Today, “progress on our goals makes us feel happier and more satisfied with life (our subjective well-being, SWB, increases).”3 This is because it gives us a sense of purpose and helps improve our self-esteem. Of course, other acts may help increase happiness too, and the payoff may vary from person-to-person. Certain shared traits exhibited by “happy people” include focusing on the positive and being optimistic, picking themselves back up when they fall, living in the moment, caring about other people’s happiness, displaying acts of selflessness, not comparing themselves to others, and displaying mature defenses (e.g. future-mindedness, humor and the ability to delay gratification).

How does happiness affect health?

Happiness can protect your heart. 

  • Various studies conducted have shown that happiness helped lower the heart rate and blood pressure in participants studied.4

Happiness may strengthen your immune system.

  • Specifically, laughing can have positive effects on the body. According to an article published by WebMD, laughing helps “curb the levels of stress hormones in your body and boosts a type of white blood cell that fights infection.”5

Happiness could help combat stress. 

  • Stress causes the body to produce higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. In a study conducted, “where participants rated their happiness more than 30 times in a day, researchers found [that] the happiest participants had 23 percent lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol than the least happy, and another indicator of stress—the level of a blood-clotting protein that increases after stress—was 12 times lower.”6  So, if you want to help combat stress, try engaging in activities that -make you happy.

Happy people sometimes have fewer aches and pains.

  • Similar to the previous studies, in another study a group rated “their recent experience of positive emotions, then (five weeks later) how much they had experienced negative symptoms like muscle strain, dizziness, and heartburn since the study began. People who reported the highest levels of positive emotion at the beginning actually became healthier over the course of the study, and ended up healthier than their unhappy counterparts.”7 This study suggests that those exhibiting a more positive outlook may be subject to fewer aches and pains.

Happiness helps combat disease and disability. 

  • Various studies analyzing individuals of different backgrounds and age groups have shown that those who displayed positive emotions were less likely to be frail or develop health issues in later years.8

Happiness may help lengthen our lives. 

  • A fascinating study used nuns as a test group, where researchers studied their autobiographical essays they had written decades earlier. What the researchers noticed was that those who had expressed “feelings like amusement, contentment, gratitude, and love […] lived a whopping 7-10 years longer than [those] least happy.”9 Of course, you don’t have to be a nun to experience these benefits. Another study in 2011 followed 4,000 adults, ages 52-79, and monitored how happy, excited and content they were multiple times in a single day. At the conclusion of the study, “happier people were 35 percent less likely to die over the course of about five years than their unhappier counterparts.”10

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Swimsuit Season Is Here – Can You Stomach It?

Swimsuit Season Is Here – Can You Stomach It?

Everyone wants a flatter belly, especially when warmer weather dictates lighter clothing. When it comes time to hit the beach or pool, will you be ready to dive in? To even head in the direction of belly-baring status, you must first know thine enemy – your abdominal fat. Afterward, read on to see what you can do to help chisel a trimmer tummy.

Your abdominal fat is actually in two places or compartments – under the skin (subcutaneous) and intra-abdominal (visceral) fat. The former lies above the abdominal muscles, the latter beneath. In simple view, here’s what they look like:
It just takes a quick measurement to see how much fat you’ve got and to track changes. Waist circumference can’t pinpoint where fat lies, but this measurement does correlate with overall abdominal fat. Total waist measurement depends on your body frame size, so it’s better to look at waist to hip ratio which shows how your belly area compares to your hips.

How to measure your Waist-to-Hip ratio (either metric or customary):

1) Standing relaxed, with a flexible tape, measure waist at smallest area – or if this is not apparent, mid-way between the lowest rib and top of hip bone.

2) With feet and thighs together, measure hips at the widest portion of your buttock.

3) Divide waist measurement by hip measurement to get your ratio. The ratio should be less than 0.9 for men; less than 0.85 for women.

 

No matter your current physique, the following approaches may help you achieve obtaining a flatter belly.

Exercise

Greater physical activity is associated with lower waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio. It’s no secret that moving muscles are the furnace for fat burning. Exercise is really essential in fat metabolism. Exercise burns fatty acids (in processes called lipolysis and oxidation), contributing to reduction in body fat. Aside from exercise aiding in fat-burning, a developing theory is that fat cells, including those in the abdomen, are temporarily ‘starved’ when blood flow is focused to moving muscles.

True, you can’t spot reduce, selectively dropping fat from only one area of the body. But new research indicates that certain types of exercise can reduce belly fat more than others. While the same level of calories are burned with each, anaerobic high-intensity intermittent training has been shown to produce greater abdominal fat reduction than continuous aerobic training.1

Diet

Energy

Calorie restriction (regardless of energy source) affects both visceral fat and subcutaneous fat. This is only true to an extent, as very low calorie diets end up with the losses of visceral fat regained weeks afterward. In fact, modest weight loss, even 5% body weight for overweight individuals, is enough to reduce visceral fat, regardless of method. One study showed that 4 different calorie-reduced diets were equally effective in reducing abdominal fat, with most loss coming from subcutaneous fat.2

Composition

A greater intake of fat and carbohydrates, typical of Western diets, is associated with higher waist circumference. Conversely, those following a Mediterranean style diet were less likely to gain abdominal fat over 10 years.3 This style reflects a focus on plant-based foods (like vegetables, fruit, and whole grains) with moderate protein intake, minimal animal fats, and a prominence of olive oil, all resulting in a low saturated fat intake. The bulk of research indicates conventional nutritionally-balanced plans are as effective as high protein diets in reducing abdominal fat.

Green Tea

Green tea (vs. black) is made with the youngest leaves, which have the most catechins. See our related article – Nutrition is Sprouting this Spring!

At a certain threshold, catechin compounds in green tea can impact abdominal fat. These compounds (prominently ECGC) may have affect the sympathetic nervous system in a way that influences fat distribution. It takes about the equivalent of 5 cups of tea, or 500 mg catechins, for an effect. Studies with significant finding used catechin-enhanced beverages.4,5 More is not better… consuming >800 mg ECGC in one sitting would be like slamming a gallon of green tea all at once, and instead of acting as an antioxidant (as it does at lower levels), you’d get pro-oxidant effects! Also, having smaller servings spread throughout the day is more effective than a single huge dose.

For the most catechins, look for quality packaging to ensure better storage with minimal exposure to oxygen, light and moisture. Also, don’t take highly concentrated EGCG green tea extracts or supplements while taking acetaminophen.

Posture

Though it won’t change your belly fat, adjusting your posture could improve the appearance of your midsection. Tilt your pelvis when standing so that your tailbone is in (pointed down, not out), as shown to the right.

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This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

References

1) Abdominal fat reducing outcome of exercise training: fat burning or hydrocarbon source redistribution?  Kuo CH and Harris MB. Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology. 2016 Jul; 94(7):695-8.  doi: 10.1139/cjpp-2015-0425.

2) Effects of 4 weight-loss diets differing in fat, protein, and carbohydrate on fat mass, lean mass, visceral adipose tissue, and hepatic fat: results from the POUNDS LOST trial. De Souza RJ, et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2012 Mar;95(3):614-25. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.026328.

3) Mediterranean diet impact on changes in abdominal fat and 10-year incidence of abdominal obesity in a Spanish population.  Funtikova AN, et al. British Journal of Nutrition. 2014 Apr 28; 111(8):1481-7.  doi: 10.1017/S0007114513003966.

4) Green tea catechin consumption enhances exercise-induced abdominal fat loss in overweight and obese adults.

Maki KC, et al. Journal of Nutrition. 2009 Feb;139(2):264-70. doi: 10.3945/jn.108.098293.

5) Effects of catechin enriched green tea on body composition. Wang H, et al. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2010 Apr; 18(4):773-9. doi: 10.1038/oby.2009.256.

Augie: A Film by James Keach | LA Fitness Recap

Augie: A Film by James Keach | LA Fitness Recap

“You can either celebrate what you can do, or mourn what you can’t.”

Augie Nieto

Founder of Augie's Quest, Co-founder and CEO of Life Fitness, Chairman of Octane Fitness

Documentary-style filmmaking has a way of exposing some of the most heartfelt elements of the human condition. In that regard, the documentary film Augie does not disappoint. Augie is raw, emotional, and moving. Created by award-winning director James Keach, viewers are taken on a journey through the life of fitness entrepreneur and icon, Augie Nieto.

Augie, a legend who is often recognized and referred to on a first name basis, is the founder of Life Fitness, as well as the chairman of Octane Fitness. He is a man who let nothing stop him while on his pathway to success.  It seemed like Augie had it all – until he was diagnosed with ALS in 2006.

In an almost cruel and ironic twist of fate, Augie found himself suddenly battling a fatal neurological condition, which slowly weakened his muscles and impacted his body’s ability to move. However, Augie was determined not to just sit at the sidelines and let the disease win. Instead, he started a nonprofit called Augie’s Quest, which funds the ALS Therapy Development Institute and their efforts in finding a cure.

 

“The best gift I can give my wife and kids is to do something when you’re faced with adversity, and that’s a gift.”

Augie Nieto

Founder of Augie's Quest, Co-founder and CEO of Life Fitness, Chairman of Octane Fitness

Little is currently known about what triggers ALS, but scientists are working hard to better understand this disease and find methods to stop it. Those suffering from the disease start losing control of their voluntary muscle movement, but retain the functionality of their brain. There are two types of ALS: sporadic and familial. Sporadic is the most common and accounts for about 90% to 95% of all cases. This means it can affect anyone, anywhere, at any time. As stated on the Augie’s Quest webpage, “ALS is not an incurable disease. It is an underfunded one.”1

Augie does a wonderful job of highlighting the charismatic personality and refreshing sense of humor that Augie carries with him while making the most out of his life. Augie’s upbeat demeanor acts as an inspiration by showing that no matter what we are faced with, a little humor can help us carry on. Aside from highlighting just Augie’s life, Augie introduces viewers to short interviews of others battling ALS. It is interesting to see the perspectives of both those diagnosed with the disease as well as how it affects the loved ones around them.

Augie is a love story. It is inspirational and educational. And it is the next must-see documentary on your watch list. Augie recently was screened at the Newport Beach Film Festival and will be released later this year. Find additional upcoming screenings here.

LA Fitness is proud to stand behind Augie and support his efforts in finding a cure for ALS. For over 6 years, LA Fitness has partnered with Augie’s Quest to help raise funds for a cure. Help LA Fitness in our efforts to support Augie’s Quest by donating here. To learn more, please visit http://lafitnesscares.com/.

Sources:

  1. “Fundraising.” Augie’s Quest. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 May 2017.
  2. “About The Film.” Augie. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 May 2017.

 

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11 Ways to Make Working Out More Fun

11 Ways to Make Working Out More Fun

Working out doesn’t have to feel like a chore! It’s true – you just have to find the right type of workout for YOU. We are all unique, which means our workouts should be too. Find what makes you happy and embrace it, so you can have fun while burning those pesky calories and feel good while you’re doing it!

1. Pick A Moving Buddy – As simple as this may seem, many people lack the companionship of a friend, spouse, or partner when it comes to working out. Having a workout buddy makes the routine much more fun and enjoyable, and statistics have shown that individuals who work out with a partner have a higher probability of reaching their personal fitness goals.1

Read more about the benefits of having a workout buddy here.

2. Try Something New – Remember when you were young and your mom would say, ‘How do you know you don’t like it, if you don’t try it?’ Get creative and try something different! Why not attempt a Zumba®, Aqua Fit or Group Fitness class? At LA Fitness, there are over 20 different types of Group Fitness classes offered*, so don’t limit yourself to just one – try them all!

Find available classes and locations here.

* Classes and amenities vary by location.

3. Be a Kid Again – Take a moment to think back… back to the days when it was all play. There was no such thing as “working out” – it was called having fun! How about challenging your friends to a game of H-O-R-S-E on the LA Fitness indoor basketball courts? It’s a perfect way to stay cool, while avoiding the hot sun. If you’re not a fan of basketball, try your hand at some indoor racquetball* for a thrilling, fast-paced game with friends.

*Classes and amenities vary by location.

Do you feel like taking the workout outdoors? Dust off the old rollerblades, go ice skating, or throw a ball around, and embrace your inner child! All in the name of (fitness) fun.

t

Did You Know?

30 minutes of playing competitive basketball can burn between approx. 285-575 calories.2

30 minutes of playing competitive racquetball can burn between approx. 360-955 calories.3

30 minutes of ice skating can burn approx. 250 calories.4

4. Turn It into a Game – Get in some easy cardio by engaging in fun activities like group scavenger hunts, “fun” runs, LA Fitness Club Leagues, or a race to see who can hit the most miles on the treadmill in the shortest amount of time.

Button: Join an LA Fitness Club League today!

5. Fitness Apps – Have you downloaded the LA Fitness mobile app yet? If not, download it here for quick access to club locations, Group Fitness class schedules, court and bike reservations, Pro Results® Personal Training and much more! While you’re at it, search the mobile app market to find some fitness applications that do everything from helping track your heartrate, to measuring nutrition intake. Some even offer rewards for staying active!

If you’re looking for a more fun and interactive app, some act as fitness games and interact with the way you move. This may help you track progress and encourage you to get healthier, while still having fun.

6. Treat Yourself – If you complete your exercise for the day, give yourself a little reward. Maybe a fresh bowl of berries will do the trick, or a cup full of popcorn. However, be careful not to overindulge in anything too extreme that will counteract your hard work out.

7. Shake It Off – Move! Shake! Twist! Dance! Try Hip Hop, Kickbox Cardio, Latin Heat or Zumba® to get your cardio in, all while having fun in a laid-back fashion. It’s slimming made simple, as you dance your way into shape and feed off the high energy of those around you. Read more about what these dance-oriented LA Fitness Group Fitness lasses consist of here.

8. Distract Yourself – Watch your favorite movie or television show while exercising on a bike, elliptical, stairs, treadmill, etc. If you’d rather not be tied to a screen, try listening to an audiobook or podcast. You will be amazed at how much this can help distract from the fact that you’re working out.

9. Train for Something You’re Excited About – Maybe you want to be in better shape for a bike tour across wine country, or perhaps you want to get ready to conquer hiking the trail to Machu Picchu. Training for an event can help you stay excited and focused on your goals. Think of something that excites you, and use it as your motivation to stay focused.

10. Do Something Good for Someone Else – Sign up for a neighborhood cleanup, help paint homes in surrounding communities, assist a friend in achieving their fitness goal, or join a volunteer organization to help those in need. Not only are you participating in a great cause, but you’re staying active all while helping others in both positive and life-changing ways.

“Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.” – Booker T. Washington, American educator, author, orator, and advisor to presidents of the United States

11. Sometimes the Right Music Can Make or Break You – Do you ever find yourself rocking out to your favorite song while sitting in traffic? Try creating a fun playlist, featuring your favorite mixes to help make your workout more enjoyable.

Sources:

1. Administrator. “Benefits of Having a Workout Partner.” FitnessHealth. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Mar. 2017.

2. Averkamp, Stephanie. “How Many Calories Do I Burn Playing Basketball?” FitnessforWeightLoss.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.

3. Averkamp, Stephanie. “How Many Calories Do I Burn Playing Racquetball?” FitnessforWeightLoss.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.

4. Averkamp, Stephanie. “How Many Calories Do I Burn Ice Skating?” FitnessforWeightLoss.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.

5. Robinson, Kara Mayer. “How Hiking Is Good for Body and Mind.” WebMD. WebMD, 2013. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.

Comment below with how YOU make exercising fun!

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