Healthy Lifestyle Tips
Prepare yourself mentally and physically for everything life throws at you, with Nikki's top ideas and tips.
WHY STRENGTH TRAINING IS KEY IF YOU ARE FEELING DEPRESSED, ANXIOUS OR LOW
As it is Mental Health Awareness Week, I thought it would be timely to talk about the effects of strength training on mental health.
I, like so many others, have suffered with and still do occasionally suffer with bouts of low mood, anxiety, stress and fatigue. The one thing that consistently seems to improve my mood is going to the gym and lifting weights. I know it sounds trite but it has always worked for me, especially when I’m struggling with motivation to actually get to the gym (and trust me, even personal trainers sometimes struggle with motivation to work out). I know that however fed up, demotivated and stressed out I may feel on entering the gym, I always leave feeling energised, focused, accomplished, strong and ready to deal with whatever is stressing me out.
And it’s not just me. So many of my clients give me similar feedback. Most clients will contact me initially to lose weight or improve their health and fitness but in most all cases, clients will at some point report that, even if they initially hated the thought of working out, they actually soon notice and grow to love the buzz, the energy, the feelings of empowerment and the improvement in self confidence and self esteem that come with strength training. Many of them report that they start noticing these changes long before they notice any changes in their appearance or fitness.
So is this just anecdotal or does strength training really impact ones’ mood?
Well, a recent study shows that regardless of age, sex or overall health status, strength training is linked to a significant reduction in depressive symptoms. In fact the greatest gains were found in those with greater depressive symptoms.
The research also showed that supervised sessions resulted in greater gains than unsupervised sessions.
Research also tells us that you don’t have to turn into Arnold Schwarzenegger and lift heavy weights every day to see benefits. In fact research shows that lifting moderate weights just 1 - 2 hours per week, has the greatest effects on anxiety.
We also know that strength training increases endorphins which reduce anxiety and depression and norepinephrine which can boost your brains ability to deal with stress.
So its not just anecdotal, science shows that strength training improves your mood.
Even if you ignore the science though I believe that if you apply the following 5 key principles of strength training to your life, then it follows that your mood will improve , self confidence will grow and your mental resilience will become stronger. It certainly has been the case for me.
- Growth begins outside of your comfort zone. A good training plan will be progressive, in other words it will continue to get harder. If you have a great PT, he or she will constantly push you past your limits and out of your comfort zone, as outside of your comfort zone is where growth and improvement begins. This is also true of life. Pushing yourself past your limits can only be a positive thing, it encourages growth.
- Sometimes with pain comes gain...sometimes . With strength training, as with life, sometimes you need to experience pain and hurt to get stronger. In order to build strong muscles you need to work them so hard that the muscle fibres became damaged. These fibres will then repair themselves and during that process become bigger and stronger. I definitely see parallels there with my own life experiences. Do you?
- Perseverance is key Resistance or strength training is ultimately about overcoming obstacles in a controlled, disciplined and focused manner. You may fail often but when you finally get that lift, you feel powerful and accomplished. In order to be successful you need to practise perseverance, tenacity and grit. These exact same qualities are the traits of mental resilience which helps you bounce back from difficult experiences.
- Mindfulness . We all have heard about how important it is to pay attention to the present moment and not be distracted by the past or future. Mindfulness is essential when you are lifting. When you are lifting weights you need to be completely focused on that moment only. If you want to lift successfully and safely, you have to focus on you, you have to give yourself YOUR time and not allow other things to distract you. Again, this is true in life. We all know the importance of “ME TIME” but how often do we take it. For me, my time at the gym is probably one of the only times that I do not allow myself to be distracted by other things. It’s my “ME TIME”
- If you aim for nothing, you’ll hit it every time A good training programme requires realistic but challenging goals that will make you feel awesome once you have achieved them. In life, if you have clear goals, then you have an idea of what you want to achieve and how to go about achieving it. With goal achievement comes self pride, feelings of achievement, self confidence and renewed ambition.
So, hopefully you can see that strength training can improve your mental health. So, if you are feeling a little low, get yourself to the gym, book a session with a PT who can provide you with a safe and appropriate plan and start lifting.
Trust me, stick with it and you will not only get fitter and stronger but you will feel better.
Good luck !
AGE & FITNESS
Why it’s never too late to start exercising
I felt inspired to write about age and fitness, following several amazing conversations I’ve had over the last few days with some of my clients. One of those clients announced that she had been looking through old photos of herself and had just realised that she has never in her 60 plus years felt as fit, strong and energetic as she dopes now and that as a result of this new found energy and confidence she has decided to take up kayaking, something that she has always wanted to do but never had the confidence to try before now. Plus she is now running 5k a week. Before she started working with me , she struggled to walk up her own stairs without pain and losing her breath, she was constantly in pain and she just felt "old"
Another of my “older” clients who originally started to see me because she is at risk of osteoporosis and wanted to avoid medication, just told me that since she started weight training with me, she has been advised by her doctor that her bone density has increased which is great news...
Another of my 60 year old clients last night said that since she started training, although she still finds it hard she has noticed not only that she is losing weight but that she feels stronger, she stands taller and most importantly she feels more confident and capable. She hated PE at school and finds it incredible that now in her 60s she has discovered that she actually enjoys the effect that working out has on her . She only started working out because her children were worried about her weight and health and now she runs on her own and often sticks around after the session has ended, to row a couple of 100 metres or go for a quick run around the studio.
Finally, another clients started working with me just before her “significant” birthday..when she contacted me she was still struggling with the effects of a broken back years before, she was inactive and unhappy ...She has since completed a half marathon and triathlon and now physical activity is part of her every day life...
I myself, have just had a significant birthday and yet feel stronger, fitter and in better health than I ever have. I hated any form of exercise and I always struggled with my weight and yet now I couldn't imagine a week without some form of exercise.
I really believe that it is never too late to start exercising and that, if you give it time, you will start to enjoy, maybe not the exercise itself but definitely the benefits...
Apart from that feeling of accomplishment and subsequent confidence here are some other reasons why you should continue or start exercising whatever your age...
- You will live longer - a sedentary lifestyle is a leading cause of death and disability. Exercise helps to prevent and or manage conditions like strokes, heart disease, osteoarthritis and type 2 diabetes
- Improves mood and feelings of self esteem and independence - Physical activity relieves stress and the endorphins produced can actually help reduces feelings of sadness and anxiety. Feeling strong increases your self confidence
- Reduces your risk of falling - Exercise builds strength, stamina and flexibility and improves balance. This, in conjunction with your stronger bones and increased confidence, reduces the risk of falling
- Helps maintain the ability to carry out daily activities - Do you struggle to walk up the stairs, do you suffer with back pain? Do you spend more time sitting down than being physically active ? Keeping fit will keep you fit, and reduce your pain
- Reduces the risk of dementia developing - Studies show that exercise improves thinking and memory and reduces the risk of dementia
So, if you want to stay pain free, reduce your risk of mental illness and stay independent well into your old age, ...keep moving !!
Check with your GP of course before beginning or increasing phyisical activity
People constantly ask me …what do I need to do to lose weight?
Well, apart from work with me of course 😊 I believe that it really boils down to 5 simple things.
1. DON'T JUDGE YOURSELF BY NORMAL SCALES
Normal scales only measure "weight" and not "fat" loss. If you do need to lose weight, then your focus should be "fat" loss. When you embark on a restrictive diet or do lots and lots of moderate intensity cardio, you may well see the weight drop off quickly BUT you are probably losing "muscle" not "fat".
The more muscle you lose the less sustainable your weight loss in the long Why? Because muscle will burn up calories at an intense rate even when you are chilling on the sofa. You don’t need to turn into a body builder just focus on becoming leaner.
Also how reliable are your scales exactly? How many times have you jumped off the scales, ecstatic because you have lost a couple of pounds, only to see those pounds and more back on the next day or maybe even on that same day?
Your body weight is subject to so many changes throughout the day. For example how much water you drink, how much you have sweated, even your toilet habits! and yes that is a fact
So DITCH THE SCALES use a tape measure instead AND INCREASE YOUR MUSCLE MASS.
2. NOT EATING ENOUGH WILL NOT HELP YOU TO LOSE WEIGHT
Focus on QUALITY and not QUANTITY ....and eat REAL food rather than heavily processed foods even if they are labelled "light" or "healthy". If you starve your body, it doesn't know you are on a temporary diet it just goes into starvation mode and starts to store fat so FILL YOUR BOOTS with GOOD food.
All food is good food in moderation but the best foods for weight loss are lean proteins, healthy fats and low GI starchy carbs.
3. EAT WHEN YOU ARE HUNGRY
If you eat when you are angry, sad, bored or stressed that's a lot of extra food that your body does not need which could end up as unwanted body weight.
I am an emotional eater as are a number of my clients and we have come up with ways to control it. If you are an emotional eater, you really should try and address it and I promise you, you will be amazed at the difference it will make.
4. DRINK WATER
Keep hydrated. How much? It really depends on so many things such as your level of physical activity, the temperature of the environment, humidity, your respiration rate etc ...but I'd try and aim for at least 1.5 litres a day ....
5. KEEP ACTIVE
But remember not all exercise is the same. If you want to lose "fat" specifically then you need to do muscle fitness training not just cardio. Body weight exercises, squats, pressups, lunges are all great examples and of course if you have dumbbells, kettlebells or access to a gym then all the better ...
Cardio is, of course, good for you too and necessary BUT if you are trying to lose weight then you should do muscle building exercises.
So those are my 5 top tips….
I hope you found the article interesting and helpful and please do contact me if you need any more information
For most of us “stress” is a fact of life but unfortunately it can also influence our weight …
“Even if you usually eat well and exercise, chronic high stress can prevent you from losing weight or even add pounds.
Pamela Peeke - Body For Life For Women
When you are stressed, your body releases adrenaline which gives you instant energy so that you can fight or flee the threat; and cortisol, which helps to replenish that energy once the threat has passed.
This can make you hungry and you may crave sweet, salty and high fat foods because these foods stimulate the brain to release pleasure chemicals that reduce tensions. This soothing effect can become addictive. Also the fuel that your body needs during fight or flee is sugar, which is why we crave carbs when we are stressed.
This process is brilliant when, as in back in Paleolithic times for example, our stress came in the form of physical danger, when we really did need to fight or flee. Stress was acute but short lived. But it’s not so great when we look at todays typical stress inducing situations such as early morning traffic jams, tight deadlines in our sedentary jobs and financial worries.
Unlike fleeing from a grizzly bear, modern day typical stresses do not expend any energy. We don’t fight or flee, rather we sit and stew in frustration. Also, stresses today tend to be unrelenting and chronic as opposed to acute but short lived. Unfortunately our neuroendocrine system hasn't caught on to this so we still get the cortisol, along with the associated signal to replenish our energy, in other words we feel hungry and we eat.
Stress can also dictate where your fat is stored. Again, back when we were fighting off bears and tigers, our bodies adapted to store fat supplies for the long haul. Today this fat, which is stored in our bellies and is also known as visceral or abdominal fat, is particularly dangerous because it surrounds vital organs and releases fatty acids into the blood, raising cholesterol and insulin levels and paving the way for heart disease and diabetes.
Another consequence of cortisol is the effect it has on testosterone. Whilst our adrenal glands are releasing cortisol, production of the muscle building hormone, testosterone, slows down. Over time this leads to a decrease in muscle mass which means you burn less calories.
Stress can also trigger emotional eating. When we have a surge of adrenaline, as part of our flight or flee response, we get fidgety, activated and anxious and some people become orally fidgety. This can lead to nail biting or teeth grinding or mindless snacking, just to give our mouths something to do.
So how do we break the cycle?
Unfortunately we cannot avoid stress but these tips may help:
Exercise - But not too much as remember exercise is a stressor on the body too
Sleep - Cortisol levels rise when we don’t get enough rest. Your body perceives sleep deprivation as a major stressor
Eat - Don’t go on a strict diet. Eat breakfast. Curtail caffeine as when you combine stress with caffeine it raises cortisol levels more than stress alone.
Relax - Devote time to relaxation. Relaxing stimulates the brain to produce chemicals that counter the effects of stress.
Have you ever polished off a family bag of crisps or Maltesers without even realising it? You only intended to have a handful but minutes later the bag was empty.
Do you stop eating when you are comfortably full or when your plate is empty?
Can you describe the smell, taste and texture of the last thing you ate?
Could you actually list everything you have eaten today?
Could you be a mindless eater and if so, so what?
Well, mindless eating can actually lead to consuming excess calories which will eventually lead to unwanted weight gain.
If you eat when you're hungry that is a good thing, you are responding to the needs of your body. However, if you find yourself eating, not when you are hungry but when you are bored, or stressed or just eating because you always eat at that time or because everybody else is eating, then you are possibly eating mindlessly, which is not good, especially if you are trying to lose weight.
So what does it mean to eat mindfully and why is it important ?
Eating mindfully means paying attention to when, why and what you eat? It means understanding if you are eating because you are hungry or because you are bored?
It means being aware of how you feel whilst eating and noticing when you are full, which might be before you actually clear your plate.
It means being more aware of what you are eating and whether it is good for you.
If you eat mindfully then you will eat when you are hungry and you will stop eating when you are full.
You will curb emotional eating because you will recognise that it is your emotion rather than your appetite that is triggering this desire to eat.
You will care more about what you actually eat because you want to feel good after you've eaten.
Ultimately eating mindfully means that you take care about what you are putting into your body.
A few tips on how to eat mindfully.
Eat when you are hungry
Do you always eat a big meal at 6pm because that’s the routine? Do you always grab a large box of popcorn at the cinema because , well just because…?
Check yourself. Are you responding to hunger or something else? Before you eat, ask yourself if you are hungry? Would an apple or a bowl of healthy salad with mixed beans, suffice? If not, then possibly you are not hungry just bored.
Sip water as you eat.
Pause and put your cutlery down between each bite. Some experts suggest switching your fork to your non dominant hand, or using chopsticks so that you really have to slow down and think about what you are eating.
If you slow down you also get the opportunity to check whether you are full or not. It has been suggested that when we eat we all experience an “eating pause”, a moment when we will put our cutlery down and stop eating. This pause is our bodies way of telling us that we are now comfortably full, but more often than not, after a quick break, we look down at our plates, see that they are not clear and resume eating. This is now mindless eating,
Research shows that eating in front of the TV increases food intake by 14%, talking to a friend whilst you eat can increase consumption by 18%. Doing two things at once inhibits concentration and awareness so sit at the table, switch off the TV, put down the paper and ignore the phone.
Mix it up
Eat when you are hungry rather than when you normally eat. Also vary your diet. If every morning you are on automatic pilot, reaching for the breakfast cereal and coffee pot then this is mindless eating. Try something new. It will force you to think about what you are eating.
Also, research shows that the bigger the plate or serving, the more you will eat without thinking, so revisit your portion sizes.
And Fnally and most importantly ...
Eat what you want and Enjoy your food
Mindful eating is not about restricting foods, counting calories or worrying about the “ideal” body size. It is about listening and responding to your appetite. If you really want to eat a calorie dense food, go ahead but be aware and mindful of your portion size. If you eat mindfully then ultimately you will really care about the quality and quantity of what you put into your body
I hope you found the article interesting and useful. Please do contact me if you have any comments or questions.
It's that time of year when most people are thinking about their New Year resolutions and promising themselves that this time they will lose weight, be happier, stop smoking, exercise more. But according to a study by psychologist Richard Wiseman, 78% of all New Year resolutions fail. We break them and then feel more dispirited and despondent than before. We fail to keep because often the resolutions are set at the last minute, without any real forethought or planning.
So, how can do we become one of the 22%ers that keep our resolutions?
Make them SMART goals rather than vague resolutions. Make sure your goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time bound. So for example, rather than resolving to lose weight, set yourself a goal to lose a specific amount of weight by a certain date.
A goal without a plan is just a wish so plan, plan, plan. Have you got the resources and knowledge you need to attain this goal? Ask for help?
Keep your list short and simple. It is so much easier to set and attain a small series of goals rather than one extreme one.
Set the bar low. Be kind to yourself. Richard Wiseman says " Failing to achieve your ambitions is often psychologically harmful because it can rob people of a sense of self control" Surely it is better to achieve a small goal, pat yourself on the back and then move onto the next one.
So good luck with 2015.
* The material on this website is provided for educational purposes only. We cannot guarantee any weight loss or fitness results.