Give the Gift that Keeps on Giving: Fitness
It’s that time of year when we wrack our brains, trying to think of the perfect gifts for those we love. And this year, giving seems to have taken on a deeper meaning. 2020 has made us stand up and take stock of the things that are truly important in life: our fellow human beings, our cherished family and friends, and our health — and their health. We all know the saying, “if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything,” and it’s never felt more true.
While gyms are doing everything they can to provide a safe environment for their members, going to the gym is not as carefree as it was pre-COVID. Many people aren’t comfortable working out at the gym, regardless of the safety measures that have been enforced. Working with a personal trainer outside of the gym is the perfect gift option either for yourself or for a loved one, COVID concerns or not. There are several options to choose from, depending on the individual trainer and the services he or she offers:
- In-Home Live Training: the fitness trainer will come to your home to conduct your training sessions using equipment that you already have, or they will recommend that you purchase. Some trainers will also bring their own bags with select equipment. A yoga mat and a small, cleared area are, truthfully, all that’s needed to get started. This option is ideal for those who prioritize safety, convenience and receiving highly-individualized attention.
- Online Live Training: you and your fitness trainer will meet for your sessions using an online platform, such as Zoom. You will get many of the same benefits of in-home training with zero risk of COVID-transmission. This option is also ideal for those with very busy or changeable schedules.
- Online Fitness Program: your fitness trainer will customize a program for you to carry out on your own, with regular live check-ins to address your progress, any questions or challenges that arise, and keep you accountable and moving forward. This is the most cost-effective option and ideal for highly motivated individuals who still desire expert guidance and accountability.
All three programs provide clients with highly effective workouts that will boost their fitness, provided the trainer has the credentials, experience, and approach that matches the client’s needs. To read more on how to choose a personal trainer, click here.
WHY GIVING THE GIFT OF FITNESS IS ESPECIALLY MEANINGFUL
As many can attest to, there has been a sharp rise in anxiety and depression over the past year. This has caused an increase in sedentary behaviors, stress-related eating, and weight gain. Understandably, many people have lost the drive and motivation to take care of themselves during this unprecedented time. The lack of self-care only causes further mental and physical stress, however, making it all the more difficult to prioritize one’s health. The irony is that staying healthy is of paramount importance–at all times, of course, but especially while the Coronavirus still poses a significant threat. Hope is surely on the horizon, but it will be months before COVID-19 is safely behind us.
MANY ADULTS OF ANY AGE ARE AT INCREASED RISK FOR CONTRACTING SEVERE ILLNESS WITH COVID-19
If you haven’t reviewed the CDC’s most updated lists of underlying medical conditions to be aware of with COVID-19, click Medical Conditions to view. Highlighted below are some of the more common of these from the CDC’s lists:
Adults of any age with the following conditions are at increased risk of severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19: (Severe illness is defined as requiring hospitalization, admission to the ICU, intubation or mechanical ventilation, or death.)
- Heart Conditions (e.g., heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies)
- Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 kg/m2 or higher but < 40 kg/m2)
- Severe Obesity (BMI ≥40 kg/m2)
- Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
Adults of any age with the following conditions may be at an increased risk for severe illness from the virus that causes COVID-19:
- Asthma (moderate-to-severe)
- Hypertension or High Blood Pressure
- Immunocompromised State (weakened immunity from blood/bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or other immune-weakening medicines.)
- Liver Disease
- Overweight (BMI > 25 kg/m2, but < 30 kg/m2)
You may find it surprising to learn how prevalent these conditions are to American adults:
- Nearly one-third are overweight, with a BMI between 25 and 25.9.
- An additional nearly 40% are currently obese, with a BMI of 30 or greater, according to data published in JAMA in 2018.
To calculate your own BMI in seconds, click here.
- Nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure, and only 1 in 4 has it under control. This “silent killer” dramatically increases the risk of both heart disease and stroke–the #1 and #5 causes of death in the U.S., respectively, according to the CDC.
- A staggering 30% have NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease), and many don’t even know it! The greatest risk factors? Excess weight or obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, and high cholesterol/blood lipids.
- Over 10% have Type 2 Diabetes–that’s 34.2 million Americans, and another 88 million Americans–are pre-diabetic. The good news is that Diabetes is preventable and may even be reversible with weight loss, exercise, and eating a nutritionally sound diet.
A cross-sectional analysis of NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) data found that more than 40% of U.S. adults with overweight and nearly 10% with obesity did not recognize they had a weight issue. This lack of insight is concerning because these conditions can increase the risk for many diseases, along with posing a greater COVID-related risk:
- heart disease
- gall bladder disease
- sleep apnea
- some cancers
ACHIEVE YOUR BEST SELF IN 2021!
Had enough of the grim statistics? Let’s move on to an uplifting solution. Getting back to that holiday gift list, this is the perfect time for giving either yourself or someone you love the gift of fitness by training with a fitness professional! A nice perk of giving this to yourself is that you’ll also probably benefit someone close to you. Boosting your fitness level will aid you in achieving the best version of yourself–and your loved ones likely prefer when you are at your best because, um, it’s easier on them. 😊
A qualified trainer will keep your workouts fun, challenging, and safe. At Optimal Personal Training, I incorporate a wide range of modalities into my clients’ workouts, each making a key contribution to their overall fitness and always tailored to their goals and skill level: dynamic movement, flexibility, core and balance work, sports-specific training, cardiovascular exercises and strength training (also known as resistance or weight training). To read more about the programs I offer, click here. But before you read on, allow me to dispel a common myth. Most people have long been aware of the benefits of cardiovascular exercise, but many think that if they’re not aiming for bulging biceps or six-pack abs, working with weights or other forms of strength training is of no use to them. This is point-blank false. Take a look at the list below. I’ll bet you’ll be surprised!
9 LIFE-CHANGING BENEFITS OF STRENGTH TRAINING
- LOWER ABDOMINAL FAT In a 2014 study published in the journal Obesity, Harvard researchers found that strength training was more effective than cardiovascular exercise at preventing increases in abdominal fat. Strength training increases lean muscle, and the more lean muscle we have, the greater our metabolism and resting metabolic rate. The take home? We burn more calories even while resting than someone who has less muscle mass.
- IMPROVED CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH That abdominal fat we all adore may or may not pose a severe health risk. In addition to the type of fat that lies just beneath the skin and is pinchable (subcutaneous fat), deeper visceral fat surrounds vital organs in the abdominal cavity. In addition to being just plain unsightly, this organ-hugging fat is more likely to raise your risk for serious medical issues. Heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Type 2 Diabetes, stroke, and high cholesterol are some of the conditions that are strongly linked to visceral fat. Telltale signs that you have this more threatening type of fat are the potbelly and the so-called “apple” shape, with a lot of weight accumulated in the trunk. By lowering abdominal, including the visceral type, strength training also increases one’s heart health. Further, it lowers blood pressure and the blood lipid, triglycerides, similarly to cardiovascular exercise, but has an even greater impact on raising HDL, considered the “good” cholesterol.
- BETTER BLOOD SUGAR Anyone with Type 2 Diabetes–or prediabetes, for that matter–should be on a strength training regime. Weight training specifically improves the process of transporting glucose into the muscle cells, where it belongs, and can be properly utilized. Otherwise, it hangs out in the blood and wreaks all kinds of havoc. Weight training can also reduce Hemoglobin A1C (HA1C), a marker for how high your blood sugar’s been over a three-month lookback. What’s more, strength training can reduce that infamous visceral fat that increases the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
- REDUCED CANCER RISK Want to venture a guess at one factor that increases cancer risk? If you’re thinking visceral fat, you’re right. Research has shown that visceral fat cells produce high levels of a cancer-triggering protein called fibroblast growth factor-2, or FGF2. A 2018 study that used survey data from 80,000 adults aged >30, found that adhering to guidelines of prescribed resistance training at least two times weekly was associated with a 31% reduced risk of death from cancer.
- LOWERED RISK OF INJURIES & FALLS Having a decent amount of muscle enhances all movements, balance, and coordination. Plus, strength training also increases the tensile strength of the collagen in tendons to help prevent injury. On the contrary, when muscles—and, therefore, tendons–are too weak to meet the challenges put upon them, more stress gets transferred to the tendons and will likely result in tendonitis.
- ELEVATED MOOD The results of a meta-analysis of 33 clinical trials published in JAMA Psychiatry in 2018 concluded that resistance training was associated with a significant reduction in depressive symptoms. This occurred regardless of the participants’ age, sex, and health status or even how long, intensely, or frequently they worked out!
- DIMINISHED ANXIETY If you or someone you love suffers from anxiety, you’ll be relieved to learn that resistance training has been shown to have significant anti-anxiety effects. Notably, low-to-moderate intensity workouts may produce the most reliable and robust results! This means you don’t need to train for the Mr. or Mrs. Universe contest to reap this mood-soothing benefit!
- DECREASED INFLAMMATION Are you aware that inflammation is a common factor in diseases like Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease, and Diabetes? There is an emerging consensus that chronic inflammation plays a causative role in disease and the aging process, in general. The term “inflammaging” is referred to by scientists as the acceleration of biological aging and age-related diseases from chronic low-grade inflammation. Recently, it has been recognized that skeletal muscle tissue releases small peptides into the bloodstream, known as myokines, which can exert anti-inflammatory as well as insulin-sensitizing effects throughout the body. Importantly, exercise-induced myokines can exert an anti-inflammatory action that can counteract both acute inflammation and chronic low-grade inflammation resulting from physical inactivity, aging, or metabolic disorders (i.e., obesity, Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus).
- IMPROVED SLEEP, ENERGY & ENDURANCE (OH MY!!!) If you’ve ever been lucky enough to be caught in the insane loop of poor sleep and bottom-of-the-barrel energy, you know how maddening it is. A tried and true method that significantly improves this issue is getting regular exercise, including both aerobic and resistance training. As we already discussed, many people have experienced a COVID-related sharp rise in anxiety, but they have also let go of their self-care, including exercise. This double whammy is the perfect combination for insomnia. Beginning to exercise again can start the ball rolling back in the right direction. As for endurance, whenever we strengthen our muscles and skeletal system, they will naturally be able to power through farther hikes, more golf, and longer tennis games!
So, as you’re pondering that special gift for mom, dad, your spouse, or even for yourself, I hope you’ll keep health and well-being at the top of your list and consider giving the gift of fitness. It is undeniably one of the top three factors that optimize health, along with good nutrition and stress management, which fitness tends to go hand-in-hand with. Because let’s face it, when you have your health, you have everything.
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